Updated: Jan 11, 2020
I know that many of you have heard this a million times. Make sure you have a will. Make sure you have a plan in place if something happens to you. Usually we pay close attention to this when we have young children. However, we rarely plan for ourselves or our parents until we are faced with an emergent situation that forces us to do so. I can't tell you enough times from personal experience that you should discuss with your family the following important things as soon as possible:
Having an updated Will
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
Power of Attorney for Finances
DNR (do not resuscitate order)
I had some of these in order prior to needing them and I still had a lot of hoops to jump through when I needed access quickly. As far as a will goes make sure that if it has been several years since you read the one you have that you take some time to review it. It is likely something in it needs updating or perhaps there are some things the should be changed. Life changes and as kids age are plans change.
A POA or Power of Attorney is a document everyone should have. There are two different types of POAs. You need this because it allows someone to act on your behalf or for you to act on behalf of an aging parent or spouse. One of them will be for health issues and the other for access to financial matters. I needed this suddenly when my mom was hurt. I had the document but it still took me a few weeks to get banks and such to approve the document and add me to accounts. I had to do many things to verify the document as well, so make sure you have a very well constructed one. I would definitely recommend you talk with a lawyer to assist you with this so that you know you have not left anything out even though you can create them online easily if necessary. You should also make sure you have many copies and that multiple people know where they are if needed. As I talked about months ago, I did not have one in my mom's room at the senior facility she lives in when we needed it for an emergency 911 call and management could not find the one given to them at move in. I now have it taped to the refrigerator.
One thing that has recently been a topic for my mother and I has been the issue of signing a DNR. A DNR is a do not resuscitate order, which means is that if my mom signs this she is saying that if she is found not breathing in her room at the facility she is in then she does not want anyone to perform CPR. This would very likely break her ribs and cause great harm to her body, (especially since she weighs 90 pounds) even though she will already have passed away. It took a long time to explain to her that a DNR did not mean we were letting her die. My mom is on hospice and while she is still somewhat active and ok her health is day to day. Whether or not this is something you or a senior parent would want is certainly worth a conversation so that everyone is aware of a loved one's wishes.
You should also talk to your spouse, loved one, and senior parents about what their wishes are if they die. Not an easy conversation but I can't tell you how hard it is when you have no plan and when people disagree about what to do. Even if this is just a conversation at least everyone has heard been able to hear it. Sometimes we do not think about ourselves. I was born in Michigan. I am now divorced. I had not really thought about where I would want to be buried or how I would want things to be planned. I have since talked with my kids and their father about this but it was something I wish I had done sooner. My mom and I have had many conversations recently about this and she told me many things I would not have known about what she wants to happen.
There is no good time to do this. The time is now.
All of these issues are important and they are put in place because none of us can predict when we will need them. I am not a lawyer so consulting one is always encouraged but I do know the importance of them and how they have played a role in my situation. So give you, your loved ones and senior parents the gift of conversation and planning. I want to prevent you from having unnecessary stress at a time when you will already be going through a difficult time.