An article last week from the New York Times “The New Old Age” blog explores how aging (and dying) comes rife with a mountain of paperwork. For example, in the context of New York elder law, we know that most seniors dread the process of sifting through the paperwork to fill out New York Medicaid applications and to provide a proper accounting of all assets, expenditures, and the like when creating a trust or planning for retirement. Besides explaining to local residents the specific legal strategies that are appropriate in their situation, we also help with the actual grunt-work of dealing with the paperwork portion of the legal process–making sure all proper documents are created, signed, and filed appropriately.
As the NYT blog post explores, however, the paperwork doesn’t even end at death. In fact, some have come to jokingly refer to the mound of administrative tasks as “death’s companion.” Discussing the administrative complexities of dealing with the death of her father, one adult daughter explained, “In the midst of grief, trying to go through all of this is incredibly frustrating. You have to summon all of this energy.”
For example, at the outset, Social Security, Medicare, and perhaps Medicaid offices have to be contacted to inform them of the passing and make plans to cancel or transfer coverage. In addition, advance directives have to be changed. For example, if a spouse is listed on health care proxy or power-of-attorney documents, that will need to be altered to reflect a new individual. This usually involves drawing up new documents and having them signed and notarized.
Bank account issues have to be dealt with. If an account is only in one spouse’s name, for example, the family may have to wait until court approval before the bank will be able to provide access. If a car or home needs to be sold that is in one spouse’s name, death certificates will often be needed as part of the process. Ordering multiple copies of those certificates is usually a good idea. From paying bills and canceling subscriptions to filing new taxes, countless other administration tasks are also demanded at death. Each usually requires paperwork, phone calls, letters, and stress.
The family profiled in this case reminds readers that professional help is always vital in these matters, because in many instances it is impossible to go it alone. If you are in our state, please consider contacting our New York elder law estate planning attorneys to get experienced counsel on all of these and similar issues.
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