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Five steps to get your affairs in order in case of emergency

Written by Diane Archer

Whatever stage of life you’re in, it is daunting to think about how to get your affairs in order. But, it’s important to do so, especially in later life. You may be healthy today, but tomorrow you may not be able to speak or act for yourself. Who will care for you? Who will be able to speak for you? Who will know your desires? Who will know how to pay your bills and meet your health and financial needs?

Here are five steps to help get your affairs in order:

  1. Create a file with:
    • A list of your family members, friends and neighbors and their contact information
    • A list of important medical, business, financial and legal contacts, including your doctors, bankers, lawyers, as well as the names of your health and life insurance companies
    • Your will, your health care proxy, living will, durable power of attorney and other legal documents
    • Your most recent tax return
    • Your car title and deed to you house, if you own it
    • Copies of your Medicare and Social Security cards, as well as other insurance cards.
  2. Identify a family member or friend you trust, and let that person know where you keep the file you create. Also, consider making that person or another trusted person your legal health care proxy–the person who is allowed to speak on your behalf and knows your wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself. Make sure your health care proxy has a copy of the signed health care proxy or at least knows where to locate it in your home.  Your doctor should have a copy as well. Your proxy should also have a list of all your medications, both prescriptions and over-the-counter. (This is also important if you need hospital services.)
  3. Identify a person you trust to act on your behalf when it comes to business, legal and financial matters, if necessary. Give that person a signed durable power of attorney. A power of attorney will let the person act on your behalf while you are able to make your own decisions. A durable power of attorney will let the person act on your behalf even when you are unable to make your own decisions. The person who gets the durable power of attorney can be your health care proxy or someone else. If you’d rather not give the person a durable power of attorney immediately, you can keep it in your possession and let the person know where you keep it in case someone needs to act on your behalf.
  4. Consider putting a child or someone else you trust on your checking account, so that person can write checks on your behalf. You should also consider doing the same with your safe deposit box.
  5. Regardless of whether you give someone power of attorney, let your doctors, Medicare, your bank and credit card company know you give them consent to speak to your child or other trusted caregiver.

For more advice, check out this page from the National Institute on Aging.

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