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Helping Your Aging Loved One Get Legal Affairs in Order

Helping Your Aging Loved One Get Legal Affairs in Order

By Brian Reinhold, JD, Attorney and Vice President of Risk, Safety, and Compliance

 Disclaimer: Not a substitute for legal advice.  Each situation is unique and you should consult your attorney for advice. 

Estate planning helps you and your family into the future. With the right documents, you’re able to make sure that your loved one’s wishes are fulfilled and that you know who is responsible for what in times of need. Spouses and children do not have automatic access to records or the ability to make decisions or sign legal documents. This can only be done by the person or the person’s legal representative.

There are three key documents a person should consider having:

  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Healthcare POA signs and makes decisions about administration of healthcare such as signing consent to treat.
  • Power of Attorney for Finance: Financial POA signs and makes decisions about paying for healthcare and other costs.
  • Advanced Directive/Living Will: Identifies specific type of healthcare the person wants or does not want, for example a Full Code versus Do Not Resuscitate (DNR). A living will does not cover all possibilities, but it provides guidance to a Healthcare POA.

The Healthcare and Financial POA can be the same person, but they don’t have to be. For these to be effective, they must have the documents present.

The role of the Healthcare POA is to make medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. A Healthcare POA may access medical records, determine transfers between facilities, and pursue personalized hospice care when necessary. The POA document and an advance directive will provide limitations and guidance for a Healthcare POA.

A Healthcare POA becomes active when the person is deemed incapacitated. According to Missouri law this means they are unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to such an extent that he lacks capacity to meet essential requirements for food clothing, shelter, safety, or other care such that serious physical injury, illness, or disease is likely to occur. This is not always a permanent condition. It may change and that person may no longer be incapacitated. The Financial POA does not have the requirement of incapacitation.

A Financial POA does tasks such as paying bills, managing assets, hiring representation, and other similar activities. Again, the POA document would outline how expansive this authority is. A Financial POA can coexist with your authority or apply only when you are unable to make decisions.

Having these items in place and knowing who is responsible for what can help your loved ones and your family be prepared into the future.


This blog is part of a four-part series on helping your loved one navigate their aging journey. Click to read other blogs, including:

Signs to Watch for to Help Your Aging Loved One

Tips for Difficult Conversations about Aging

Options in Senior Living – What’s Available and What Questions to Ask


Author Bio

Brian Reinhold is the Vice President of Risk, Safety, and Compliance at Lutheran Senior Services. Brian graduated with a BS degree from Brigham Young University and a juris doctor degree from Washington University. His law background is in medical negligence litigation, having represented both plaintiffs and healthcare providers. Brian manages all claims and litigation for Lutheran Senior Services and oversees investigations and responses to regulatory matters. In addition, Brian develops and provides training on preparing for and responding to adverse events.
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