Estate Planning

Legal Documents For Elderly Parents: Checklist

Ty McDuffey


As your parents age, keeping track of their legal and financial documents becomes crucial for their well-being. 

Sudden changes in their health can require quick action, and having the necessary paperwork readily available can make all the difference if your parent needs immediate medical attention.

From deeds and power of attorney to living wills and medical history, there are piles of legal documents that seniors should have in order. However, the task of organizing and maintaining these documents can be overwhelming. 

In this article, we’ll provide you with a list of important documents for seniors and offer tips on how to keep them organized and accessible with Trustworthy

Key Takeaways: 

  • Sudden changes in your parents' health can require quick action. Having the necessary paperwork readily available can make all the difference if parents need immediate medical attention.

  • There are several important legal and financial documents that seniors should have in order, including Advance Directives, Living Wills, & Durable Power of Healthcare Attorney (DPOHA).

  • By using Trustworthy, seniors and their loved ones can securely store and organize their documents in one centralized location, making it easy to access them whenever they are needed. 

What Legal Documents Do I Need to Manage My Elderly Parent's Care?

As your elderly parent's health and financial needs change over time, it's important to have the necessary legal documents in place to ensure their well-being. 

To help you keep track of the estate planning documents your elderly parent may need, here's a checklist of important legal documents to have readily available:

  1.  Advance Directives and Living Wills

Advance Directives and Living Wills are two legal documents that ensure your elderly parent's medical wishes are respected in the event of a life-threatening situation or at the end of their life. 

Both documents are notarized and provide instructions on medical care that your parent wishes to receive or avoid.

  • Advance Directives can include instructions about life-sustaining measures, such as whether your parent wants to be put on a ventilator or receive CPR. 

  • Living Wills focus specifically on end-of-life care and may outline your parent's preferences regarding hospice care, palliative care, and other medical interventions.

By having these legal documents in place, your parent's medical providers and caregivers will have a clear understanding of their wishes, which can provide peace of mind for both you and your parents during difficult times.

Related Article: Complete List of Things To Do For Elderly Parents (Checklist)

  1.  Durable Power of Healthcare Attorney (DPOHA)

A Durable Power of Healthcare Attorney (DPOHA) designates a person (and often an alternate) to make medical decisions on behalf of your elderly parent if they become incapacitated or are otherwise unable to make their own medical decisions. 

This document ensures that your parent's medical wishes are respected, even if they are unable to communicate them.

The designated person in the DPOHA is typically a family member, friend, or spouse, but it can be anyone whom your parent designates. 

This person will have the legal authority to make important medical decisions on your parent's behalf, such as whether to consent to or refuse medical treatments or procedures. 

They can also decide where your parent should receive medical care, such as in a hospital or at home with hospice care.

  1. Business Partnership and Corporate Operating Agreements

If your elderly parent is a business owner or partner, having their Business Partnership or Corporate Operating Agreement in place can help you properly manage their business interests. 

These legal documents outline the rights and responsibilities of each partner and the overall structure and purpose of the business. 

These documents are necessary to have if you are involved in managing the business or if you need to make decisions on your parent's behalf. 

For example, if your parent becomes incapacitated and is no longer able to manage the business, you can refer to the partnership agreement to determine who has the legal authority to make business decisions on your parent's behalf.

  • A Business Partnership Agreement is a legal document between two or more partners that sets out their partnership's terms and conditions, including the business's legal structure, each partner's responsibilities, partnership property, and each partner's ownership interest.

  • A Corporate Operating Agreement, on the other hand, is a legal document that outlines how a corporation will operate, including the roles and responsibilities of its officers, directors, and shareholders, as well as how business decisions will be made.

If your parent needs to retrieve a copy of these agreements, they can contact the attorney who helped to legalize the agreement.

  1. Deeds to Property

A property deed is a legal document that proves property ownership and provides a detailed description of the property's boundaries, dimensions, and location. If your elderly parent owns property, having their property deeds readily accessible is necessary if they want to sell the property or pass it down to a loved one. 

If you or your parent cannot locate the property deed, you can try to access it in a few ways. 

One option is to conduct an online search by entering the name of your parent's county or the property's location, followed by the keywords "deed" or "deed search." Doing so may lead you to the local County Recorder's website or an equivalent database, where you can search for and download a copy of the deed.

Another option is to call the County Recorder's Office and speak to a representative. You can also request a copy of the deed by mail by sending a letter to your County Recorder's Office.

Obtaining copies of deeds typically involves paying a fee of no more than $10. 

By having access to the property deed, you or your parent can establish property ownership and make any future transactions involving the property legally binding.

  1. Savings Bonds, Stock Certificates, and Brokerage Accounts

Your elderly parent may have invested in savings bonds, stock, or brokerage accounts throughout their lifetime to fund their retirement or accrue wealth. 

To locate a savings bond, you or your parent can use an online tool called the Treasury Hunt Tool to help you determine if they have any lost bonds before submitting a recovery claim. 

Your parent can also visit the Treasury Direct website and fill out Form 1048, provided that they give a certified signature in the presence of a notary or authorized certifying officer.

If your parent holds stock or shares in a particular company, they may have a stock certificate serving as a legal document representing their ownership. A stock certificate includes the number of shares owned, the date of purchase, the identification number, the corporate seal, and signatures. 

If your parent has lost their stock certificate, they can contact the stock transfer agent to retrieve it, who is responsible for maintaining the company's shareholder records and can help issue a replacement certificate.

To do so, your parent will need to provide the stock transfer agent with the name of the company, the number of shares they own, and any identifying information they have regarding the lost certificate. The transfer agent may also require proof of ownership or a notarized affidavit of loss.

Once the transfer agent has verified your parent's ownership of the shares and processed the necessary paperwork, they can issue a replacement certificate. The process of obtaining a replacement certificate may take several weeks or even months, so it's best to start the process as soon as possible.

Similarly, if your parent has a brokerage account, they can contact their broker to retrieve any lost documents, such as statements or trade confirmations. These documents provide information about your parent's investments and financial transactions for tax or audit purposes.

If your parent is having trouble accessing their brokerage account or retrieving lost documents, they can also contact the brokerage firm's customer service department for assistance. The customer service representative can walk them through the necessary steps to take and may be able to escalate the issue to a supervisor or manager for resolution.

By retrieving these financial documents, you or your parent can ensure that their investments and financial affairs are properly managed and that their financial well-being is secure.

  1. Annuity Contracts, Pension Documents, and Retirement Plans 


Annuity contracts are customizable contracts issued by an insurance company that converts an investor’s premiums into a guaranteed fixed income stream. 

Annuities take between five to ten years to grow, meaning that it’s easy for a loved one to misplace an annuity because so much time has elapsed. 

Contact the insurance company directly by phone or letter to retrieve a lost annuity. Give them your parent’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number, and they can provide copies of the contract. 


A pension refers to a set monthly income that some employers, such as federal and state entities, give their employees after a particular time served on a job. 

If your loved one has lost a pension rather than a 401(k), you can direct your loved one to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration or Form 5500 Search.

Retirement Plan

A retirement plan is a financial strategy of saving, investing, and distributing money that your loved one can use to sustain themselves throughout their retirement. 

Your aging parent might have a 401(k) or some other form of retirement account that involves them putting away a percentage of their paycheck directly into this investment fund. 

The easiest way to retrieve unclaimed benefits is through a free, searchable database called the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

However, the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits only lists unclaimed benefits that have been reported to the database. 

If your parent's benefits are not listed, it's possible that they have not yet been reported. In this case, you may need to contact the employer or financial institution directly to ask about any unclaimed benefits.

  1. Tax Returns

Keeping track of tax returns and supporting documents allows them to file their taxes accurately and timely. 

The IRS recommends that people keep their tax returns for at least three years. In most cases, seniors should have a copy of their tax return along with any supporting documents used when filing those taxes. 

These documents may include forms such as 1040, W-2, 1099-MISC, 1098, W-4, and supporting documents for charitable donations or other proof of expenses.

If your parent needs to retrieve missing tax information, they can visit the IRS website to receive their tax transcripts by phone, online, or by mail. 

They will need to provide their Social Security or tax ID number, date of birth or date of birth of their spouse (if filing jointly), bank account routing number for direct deposit, and any applicable employment or mortgage rate forms.

  1. Debt

Having your parents' debt and loan documentation can help make sure accounts are properly closed if your parent passes away. 

One option is to check credit reports to see which debts are currently outstanding. Your parent can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com

Going through old and new mail, contacting known creditors, and checking voicemails for debt scams can also help you compile a list of all debts.

If your parent is unable to manage their debts on their own, you or another caregiver can help them in paying bills and canceling accounts as needed. 

Notify creditors of any changes, such as a hospitalization or entry into a long-term care facility, to ensure that bills are sent to the correct address and that payments are made on time.

  1. Vehicle Title

Having a copy of a vehicle title ensures that your parent can sell their car or pass it down to a beneficiary in a will.

If your parent has lost their vehicle title, one option is to visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the Secretary of State's (SOS) website to retrieve a duplicate title. 

Your parent will need to provide identification and documentation of ownership, such as a vehicle registration or insurance card, to obtain a duplicate title.

After providing identification and documentation of ownership, your parent will need to fill out an application for a duplicate title. The application will require information about the vehicle, such as the make, model, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN). Your parent may also need to provide information about any liens on the vehicle.

Once the application is complete and all necessary documentation has been provided, your parent will need to pay a fee to obtain the duplicate title. The fee amount depends on which state you live in. For example, in California, the fee is $23. In Texas, it's only $5.45. 

After the fee is paid, the DMV or SOS will process the application and issue a duplicate title, which your parent can use to sell or transfer ownership of the vehicle. 

Related Article: What Happens To A Leased Vehicle When Someone Dies?

How Can Trustworthy Help Keep These Important Documents Safe?

Trustworthy is a secure digital platform designed to help seniors and their families manage their important financial and legal documents. By using Trustworthy, seniors and their loved ones can securely store and organize their documents in one centralized location, making it easy to access them whenever they are needed

Here are some ways Trustworthy can help you and your parents keep important documents safe:

  1. Secure Digital Storage: Trustworthy provides a secure and encrypted digital storage platform to store all of your loved one's legal documents and financial records in one place.

  2. Easy Access: Trustworthy lets you and your loved ones access your documents from anywhere, anytime, using any device with internet access.

  3. Organization and Tracking: Trustworthy allows you to easily organize and track your documents, so you always know where they are and when they were last updated.

  4. Secure Sharing: Trustworthy allows you to securely share documents with family members or advisors, giving everyone access to the information they need.

Trustworthy can help give you and your parents peace of mind knowing that your important documents are safe, secure, and easily accessible whenever they are needed. Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Trustworthy today.