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The List You Need for the Senior You Love

Caring for an elderly loved one? Keep these important pieces of information in a single, safe place to make your job a little easier.

The senior in your life depends on you. Do you know where his important papers, contacts, and other vital information is? If you don’t, it’s time to take action. The sooner, the better, especially if your loved one is still able to help you locate his records, or at least provide some thoughts on where they might be.

It’s worth it to take the time to assemble everything in a central place: “It gives you peace of mind and a sense of order and efficiency in your busy life,” says Ilise Ratner, founder of the Confianza Group, which helps clients with personal services ranging from health care guidance to financial planning. Gather the following documents and cards, and you’ll have the important basics covered:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Spouse’s death certificate, if applicable
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Organ donor card
  • Car title
  • Medicare information
  • Health insurance cards
  • Long-term care insurance documentation
  • Credit and ATM cards
  • List of any bank accounts
  • List of safety-deposit box contents, along with key and location
  • Receipts and appraisals for jewelry and other valuables
  • Property deeds
  • Mortgage documents
  • Other loan documents
  • Tax returns
  • Proof of military service
  • Education records
  • Healthcare proxy forms
  • Will
  • Trust forms, including a revocable living trust if applicable (see below)
  • Address book
  • Contact information for banker, attorney, insurance agent, clergyperson
  • Contact number of building superintendent, if applicable
  • Location of any stocks and bonds
  • Home and automobile insurance documentation
  • Insurance riders for jewelry and other valuables
  • Documentation of any burial arrangements, including proof of burial plot purchase

In addition, if your loved one hasn’t yet drawn up the following documents, speak to an attorney together about whether to create them:

  • A medical directive. Also known as an advance directive or living will, this document specifies the types of treatment your loved one would wish to receive should he become incapacitated or too ill to express his preferences.
  • A HIPAA release, which allows you access to your loved one’s physicians and healthcare records.
  • A durable power of attorney for healthcare. With this document, you can make healthcare decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
  • A durable power of attorney for finances. Similar to its healthcare counterpart, it allows you to make financial decisions, such as selling your loved one’s property and paying his bills.
  • A revocable living trust. This plan lets your loved one create a trust to hold some or all of his property, and to specify who receives it upon his death. Unlike a will, it does not need to go through the process of being validated in court before it can be enforced.

Once all the documents are assembled, keep a copy and send another to your loved one’s legal representative. You may still face challenges as a caregiver—but a paper chase won’t be among them.

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