Man's Hands Signing DocumentI encourage EVERYONE to begin to gather this important information. As a patient advocate, I have encountered numerous family situations where important documents were needed, but they couldn’t be found and no one knew where to begin to look. Taking care of this now reduces stress during an already stressful time.

If you or a loved one is in a nursing home and spending down assets, you’ll need to apply for medical assistance when those assets are depleted. When that time comes, you will need:

·      Proof of all of your assets

·      Marriage and divorce papers

·      Social security card and health insurance

If you cannot find these documents, it will impede your ability to get medical assistance.

In my experience, family members feel they’re intruding in their parent’s lives if they have to ask or go to look for these and other important documents.  Often times, people have no idea where they’ve stored this information through the years, making the search that much more difficult. This becomes a nightmare for these families.

The documents might be in a safe deposit box, but if the signature card hasn’t been updated, then the family member cannot access it. We recently encountered this exact situation with my mother-in-law. My wife was listed as legal power of attorney, and needed to retrieve a document from her mother’s safe deposit box. When she went to retrieve the necessary document, she discovered she wasn’t listed on the trust that had been established years before.

Document information may be listed in the computer, but do you have the password to get in to obtain them? It could be in a secret hiding place in the home, but do you know where that is?

Don’t make a stressful situation any more stressful than it has to be. I’ve created the top ten documents you should be gathering for yourself and your loved ones, listed backwards in honor of David Letterman retiring from the ‘Late Show’ this month!

Senior Assistance Top 10 List:

Number 10:  Marriage license or Divorce papers

Number 9:  Military discharge papers. The veteran and his spouse may be eligible for aid and attended care benefits as well as other veteran’s benefits.

Number 8:  Pet license and shot records. All nursing homes allow pet visitation and many hospitals do as well, but proof of shot records are needed

Number 7:  Current Prescription, Allergies and medical history and carry this in your purse or wallet at all times. In the event of an emergency, this is the first information that is asked for. Senior Assistance does have wallet size cards that you can carry with ,and I will be glad to provide them. Like our Senior Assistance facebook page or if you already have done so, just send me a request, and I will provide as many as you need.

Number 6:  Proof of Life, Health, Property and Car Insurance records.

Number 5:  List of bank accounts, sources of income and outstanding debt, loans, credit card bills, and other sources of debt.

Number 4:  Deeds to properties owned as well as mortgages, home equity loans and reverse mortgages.

Number 3:  Living Will or Advance Directive.  In the event that something happens and you’re no longer able to speak about what kind of medical care you might desire, (do not resuscitate, ventilator, feeding tube, or even IV antibiotics) or complete treatment no matter what! You also need to pick a person who can speak on your behalf about your wishes. This person is called a durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney. You can change your living will at any time. You should also give a copy of this document to your doctor. Legal Power of Attorney. In the event you’re incapacitated, and unable to manage your affairs, if you establish a legal power of attorney this person will be able to represent you. An attorney will prepare the legal documents. Please don’t get one from the internet, because it will be too generic and not address your needs. If you do not appoint a power of attorney and are incapacitated, the court will do it for you. This person may not act in your best interest.

Number 2:  Funeral and burial information

Number 1:  And finally the number one document is: The Will, probably one of the most important documents you need to have.


This list is by no means all inclusive, but it broadly covers what you should be thinking about and gathering. If you feel there are other items that should be covered, email them to me and I’ll add them to this blog.

Having conversations about this information is never too early—we all know that life can change on a dime!

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