As a family caregiver, there may come a day when you need to assume responsibility for all financial and legal matters and documents. Do you know which legal documents the people you care for have completed (wills, powers of attorney, etc)? Do you know which documents are needed – for them and also for you as their caregiver?
Where are their legal documents and other valuables stored? If there is a bank safe deposit box, do you know which bank it is, the box number, and where the key is? Are you aware that without Power of Attorney, you cannot access the box until after their death and probate begins?
Some people cannot afford a bank safe deposit box with fees ranging from $65 and to hundreds of dollars, depending on the size and the bank. Some people keep documents and valuables at home in home safes. Others use their freezer to store documents and important photos sealed in a zip plastic bag. It’s not unusual for people to hide money, valuables and documents in mattresses, the walls, or even furniture.
Have a conversation with your loved ones
One suggestion is for you to think this through for yourself, use the resources below, make appropriate changes, then plan a well-time conversation with your loved one. Perhaps you can start the conversation with them like this:
“I recently read something about keeping legal and financial documents safe and how to store valuables which helped me safeguard my own important documents and valuables. I started thinking about you. Can we talk about what documents and valuables you have and where you store them?” I want to make sure I do what you want me to do.”
After all, how can we tell loved ones what to do when we haven’t taken care of these matters ourselves?
Below are links to information and resources so you can make informed decisions and what to discuss with your care receivers.
Legal Issues and Documents Needed
- Legal Issues for Caregivers – an overview of legal issues for caregivers and documents that may be important in ensuring the legal and financial security of your family member. Also included are tips on storing and accessing completed legal documents and where to find information on obtaining assistance and benefits you may qualify for.
- Financial Planning for Family Caregivers – information, tips, and resources to help caregivers keep their own finances on track while caring for another.
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) – Scroll down to the section titled “Legal” which includes “What legal documents do I need?” and “How can I find a qualified attorney?”.
Safeguard Critical Documents and Valuables
Taking the time now to safeguard critical documents will give you peace of mind, ensure you have access to essential medical and prescription information, and help you avoid additional stress. In addition, take the time now to discuss priceless personal items you would want to protect from damage or take with you if you had to suddenly evacuate your home.
Additionally, you can find many resources listed on the FEMA Preparedness Community website which can help you organize critical financial, medical, and household information.
Be sure to download this checklist:
Checklist – Documents and Valuables
Storing Important Documents
Best Practices for Physical and Electronic Storage of Identification, Health Records, Legal Documents, and More.
Save Your Family Photographs
How to recover photographs after a disaster
Source: Written by Zanda Hilger, LPC; FEMA.gov, SafeHome.org, Ready.gov
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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