If you are the spouse, a family member or loved one who may become a senior’s caretaker, there are several things you should think about ahead of time. Among the most important is locating or replacing and then securing important documents. If this task is left to the last minute or until an emergency occurs, the result can be unneeded worry and suffering.
The senior lifestyle can bring many different circumstances and requirements for documentation. For example, a marriage license may be needed to claim a spouse’s pension benefits, and divorce papers can ensure that an ex-spouse is not a beneficiary. Military service records and discharge records may entitle a soldier to veterans’ benefits.
The first step is always to make a list of any and all important documents that might be relevant to yourself or your senior loved one. If the originals of these vital documents are available, gather them together in one place; make a record of the document names and types and be sure to tell a family or trusted friend about these papers and the location.
For virtually all people, these documents will include:
- Social Security Cards or a replacement card
- Driver’s license or a state non-driver’s ID
- Medicaid or Medicare cards
- Insurance identification documents (medical, life insurance, other policies)
- Birth, marriage and divorce certificates (if applicable)
- Death certificate if a spouse has died previously
If any of these documents cannot be located, they should be replaced now, before they are needed on short notice. Records of birth, marriage and divorce can be replaced by contacting the office of vital records for the state in which the event took place. The Centers for Disease Control maintains a website with links to each state’s vital statistics offices. You can get information about contacting that office by clicking on The National Center for Health Statistics. Veterans’ Service Records can be replaced by filing Form SF-180, Military Personnel Records with the United States National Archives. Go to Military Personnel Records to download and print a copy of ST-180.
Processing requests for certified copies of these documents may take several weeks, so do this now, before the need arises. There will be a charge for this service that varies from agency to agency, but this is important and should be done. These important basic documents should be kept in a safe, secure place.
If they are placed in a safe-deposit box, inventory them and make a list of the documents that are stored there. If the safe-deposit box belongs to the person whose documents are stored, a trusted second person should be added to the box account. That person can then deposit and retrieve contents; if the box owner dies without a second name on the account, state law may require a court order or a certified death certificate to open the box. This can be a major complication at a time when it is certainly not needed.
Important legal and health-related documents should also be assembled and placed in a secure location that will be accessible to trusted people in an emergency. These may include documents like wills, living wills, a power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. If you have neglected to create any of these important documents or if you have had a major life change such as a divorce or the death of a spouse, you should consult a Florida attorney, a Florida CPA, a professional in financial advice for seniors or even a senior real estate specialist. Do it now if you have not done so already. Each of these matters requires knowledgeable, trustworthy advice from an experienced professional. The Senior Transition Pro Team includes several professionals who are specialists in these matters. You can get professional help and advice from these team members:
- Attorney Andrew C. Grant, phone 386-206-5926 (ext. 126)
- Attorney Wendy A. Mara, J.D., MBA, phone 386-313-0113
The senior lifestyle offers many opportunities and challenges. Ourseniors.net exists to help seniors take advantage of those opportunities as well as to meet the challenges. You can contact an OurSeniors.net Advisor by phone at 866-333-2657 (se habla Español), or by using Contact Us. Check out our website at Ourseniors.net and take an online look at our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine by clicking its link. You can view the entire OurSeniors.net Directory of Approved Vendors.