Legal Documents: What is Needed for Elderly Parents

January 3, 2024
Giselle Bardwell
As parents age, their healthcare needs become more complex, and they may require assistance with managing their financial and legal affairs. It is important to have certain documents in place to ensure that their wishes are respected and that their affairs are managed appropriately. 

We’ll delve into the types of documents that are needed to care for elderly parents, addressing the complexities of their healthcare, financial, and legal aspects to provide comprehensive guidance for families navigating this crucial stage of life.

Advance Directives: Living Wills & Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA)

What are advance directives? Advance directives are crucial legal documents that empower individuals to express their medical treatment preferences in case they become unable to make decisions for themselves. These documents encompass a living will, delineating desired or undesired medical treatments, and a healthcare power of attorney, designating someone to make decisions on the individual's behalf as a healthcare proxy.

Having these documents in place is essential, ensuring that both family members and healthcare providers are aware of the individual's treatment preferences during a medical emergency, thereby offering peace of mind to both the individual and their loved ones. 

Specifically, a living will becomes particularly significant for elderly parents facing serious medical issues, serving as a vital legal document that provides explicit guidance to family members and medical professionals regarding the types of treatments the parent desires or wishes to avoid.

Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA)

One of the signs your aging parent needs help is when they flounder with financial issues. Similar to a healthcare proxy, a financial power of attorney designates someone to make financial decisions on an individual's behalf, including managing bank accounts, paying bills, and making investment decisions. This becomes particularly important if cognitive decline or other health issues render the individual unable to manage their finances. 

It is vital to choose a trustworthy and responsible person for the financial power of attorney, someone with a good understanding of the individual's financial affairs and the ability to make decisions in their best interest. This becomes especially crucial if an elderly parent becomes incapacitated, ensuring the appointed person can handle tasks such as paying bills, managing finances, and making legal decisions on behalf of the parent.

Will & Estate Planning

A pivotal legal document for estate planning is the will, outlining how an individual's assets will be distributed after their death. Having a will in place is essential to ensure that the individual's wishes are respected, and their assets are distributed according to their desires. This also prevents family disputes and hurt feelings that can harm otherwise close relationships.

If an individual passes away without a will, their assets will be distributed according to state law, which might not align with their wishes. Find more information regarding Ohio resident will laws here. Regularly updating the will is crucial to reflect any changes in the individual's circumstances or wishes, ensuring the document remains a true reflection of their intentions over time.



Trusts, crucial legal documents in estate planning, empower individuals to transfer assets to a trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries. They are important in that they:
  1. Provide Asset Protection: Trusts allow individuals to transfer assets to a trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries. This legal arrangement helps protect assets from various risks, ensuring that they are managed and distributed according to the specified terms in the trust.
  2. Minimize Taxes: Trusts can be structured to minimize tax liabilities, providing potential tax benefits for both the individual and the beneficiaries. This can be particularly important for elderly parents who may have complex financial situations.
  3. Avoid Probate: One key advantage of trusts is that they can help avoid the probate process, which is the legal process of validating a will. By bypassing probate, assets held in a trust can be distributed more efficiently, saving time and potentially reducing associated costs.
Working with an attorney is essential to determine the appropriateness of a trust and identify the best type to meet an individual's specific needs. 

Insurance Policies

Regularly reviewing insurance policies is crucial to ensure adequate coverage for an individual's healthcare needs. Be sure to review the following policies:
  1. Health Insurance: Health insurance provides financial coverage for a significant portion of medical expenses related to doctor visits. This includes routine check-ups, consultations, and preventive care, reducing the out-of-pocket costs for the elderly.
  2. Long-Term Care Insurance: In the context of caring for elderly parents, long-term care insurance emerges as particularly significant, helping cover expenses related to in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. Careful review of the policy is essential to comprehend the covered types of care and policy limits.
  3. Life Insurance: Reviewing an elderly parent's life insurance policy is crucial to ensure that the coverage aligns with their current needs and circumstances. It allows for an assessment of whether the policy provides adequate financial protection for beneficiaries, taking into account changes in health, lifestyle, and any additional financial responsibilities that may have arisen over time. 

Personal Records

In addition to legal documents, maintaining personal records is crucial, encompassing medical records, financial records, and contact information for healthcare providers and other essential contacts. Organizing and keeping these records easily accessible can significantly streamline the management of an individual's affairs, especially if they become unable to handle their own matters.

Ensuring the best possible care for elderly parents involves working with an attorney to determine and regularly update the necessary documents, reflecting changes in an individual's circumstances or wishes. This essential step in the complex and challenging process of caring for elderly parents guarantees that their wishes are respected, and their affairs are managed appropriately. 

The specific documents required may vary based on individual circumstances; for instance, if an elderly parent owns a business, additional legal documents may be necessary. Collaborating with an attorney experienced in elder law becomes imperative to ensure that all essential documents, tailored to the specific situation, are in place for comprehensive and effective caregiving. There are a number of firms who focus on elder law in the Cleveland area.

If you have more questions regarding legal documents necessary for the care of your elderly parents, please reach out to our expert staff members at BrightStar Care by filling out our contact form or calling us at 440.613.1500. We can help direct you to the appropriate channels to make sure you and your family are covered.