What Estate Plan Documents Should My Elderly Parents Have?

At Slutsky Elder Law, we regularly advise people who want to develop an estate plan that will help them and their loved ones have a secure future no matter what happens to them. Oftentimes, we also find ourselves on the other side of the equation, advising children who have elderly parents. If your parents are getting older and have not prepared an estate plan, you can help them by speaking to an elder law attorney.

Here are some crucial estate planning documents your elderly parents may want to consider:

Last Will and Testament

Regardless of the size of your parents’ estate, a last will and testament is a necessary document that will allow them to decide who will take possession of their assets when they pass away. These assets can include homes, vehicles, valuables, retirement savings accounts, and more. While some assets, like life insurance policies and annuities, have their own beneficiary designations, anything not included in their wills will be distributed by the executor of their estate as directed in the will.

Powers of Attorney

There are various powers of attorney that can be designated, and each one grants specific powers that are triggered when a person becomes unable to make decisions on their own. These include:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – Sometimes, an injury or illness can make a person unable to handle their own financial affairs. This can include mental illnesses and brain conditions like dementia. Your parents may want to appoint you or another trusted family member to hold this power so that they can avoid becoming victims of financial exploitation due to cognitive decline.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney – If your parents become unable to make medical decisions on their own, they no doubt would want you or another close family member to decide these matters for them. By appointing a healthcare power of attorney when they are still healthy enough to do so, they can avoid any confusion about who will make medical decisions for them if they become incapacitated.

Advance Directive and Living Will

A healthcare power of attorney is one type of advance directive that allows a close family member to make medical decisions. This will let medical personnel know who to speak to about medical care so they can avoid getting caught up in a family dispute. A living will is another type of advance directive that specifically addresses end-of-life care like feeding tubes and respirators. If your parents do not wish to be kept alive on life support, their living will can serve as a legally binding expression of those wishes that medical personnel will be obligated to abide by.


Anyone can petition a court to have their parents declared incapacitated and unable to manage their own affairs. If they are successful, a guardian will make decisions for them and control their finances, healthcare, and living arrangements. If you have named someone as an Agent under a Power of Attorney, that designation will take priority in the event of a guardianship proceeding.  Without a guardianship directive in place, the courts will select this person, and it may not be the person they would prefer. By making a guardianship designation now, they can ensure that their guardian will be someone they trust to look out for their interests.

Help with Estate Planning

If you or your parents would like advice about estate planning in Pennsylvania, call Slutsky Elder Law today. Call (610) 940-0650 or go to our contact page to submit a request to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney in Montgomery County, PA. Slutsky Elder Law has been proudly serving Chester, Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties for almost three decades.

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