What are the legal and other documents I need for caregiving?
By Amy Goyer
As family caregivers, we invariably need certain documents to coordinate care and handle legal affairs, insurance issues, and financial matters. Here is a checklist of documents you may need. Gather these documents early on, preferably before you need them, so you aren’t searching while in the middle of a crisis. It can be very helpful to have both printed and digital copies so you can access them quickly on your phone, tablet, or computer. Be sure to protect your loved ones’ personal, health, and financial information appropriately.
- Advance Directives, including power of attorney (PoA) for healthcare, and a living will. In addition, if desired by your loved ones you may also document Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), or Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST).
- Health information, including medical history, medication list, list of health care providers, and their specialties.
- Powers of attorney (PoA) for finances, including any documents that banks, government agencies, or investment companies may require in addition to or instead of your main PoA (for example, the Social Security Administration requires a “representative payee” be designated, and Veterans Affairs requires a “fiduciary” designation).
- Estate planning documents, such as a will or living trust.
- Funeral/memorial service wishes and plans.
- Personal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates of spouses, citizenship papers, etc.
- Financial information, including checking and savings accounts, investment and retirement accounts, income (e.g., pension, Social Security, investment income, public benefits, veterans benefits, etc.), debt (mortgage, other loans, credit cards, etc.), existing budgets, and tax documents (and contact information for the accountant).
- Safe Deposit Box information.
- Insurance documentation, including health insurance, (Medicare, private insurance plans, etc.), long-term care insurance, disability insurance, homeowners insurance, automobile boat insurance, etc.
- Military or Veteran documents, such as military discharge papers (DD-214).
- Home information, including the deed to the home, car title, mortgage and/or home equity loan, reverse mortgage, name of service providers (plumber, HVAC, handyperson, yard assistance, etc.), pet information, utilities, etc.
- Care information, such as a list of current (and past, in case you need to contact them) care providers, contracts/agreements with care providers, or facilities where your loved ones live.
Learn more in the Real World Health Care article, “How to Ask for Financial Support During Cancer Treatment”
- Advance Care Planning and Health Care Decisions: Tips for Caregivers and Families (National Institute on Aging)
- Documents You’ll Need to Manage Your Care Recipient’s Finances (Caregiver Action Network)
- Estate Planning Info and FAQs (American Bar Association)
- The Five Wishes workbook can help you create your advance directives and think through more detailed issues of end-of-life care.
- Free Advance Directives Forms for Every State (AARP)
- Frequently Asked Questions about Representative Payee (U.S. Social Security Administration)
- Getting Your Affairs in Order Checklist: Documents to Prepare for the Future (National Institute of Health)
- How to Apply to Become a Fiduciary (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- A Legal Checklist for Family Caregivers (AARP)
Amy Goyer is a nationally known caregiving expert and author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. A passionate champion for caregivers, she has also been one her entire adult life, caring for her grandparents, parents, sister, and others. Connect with Amy on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.