Essential Documents for the Eldercare Journey

Do you know where your parent’s financial, legal, medical and insurance documents are stored? Have you begun to source and organize them? It’s never to soon to get started.

In a prior blogpost, I described how totally unprepared I was when I found myself thrust into the role of caring for my aging father.  Like most of us, I had such limited information about my dad’s medical history that I could barely name one pill he was taking. And while he had shared his file cabinet of legal and financial documents, I was still in the dark about the full range of information I’d need to oversee his medical care. DNR? Health Care Power of Attorney? What the hell were those documents anyhow? And what did I have to do to create them?

Sooner or later, most of us are going to find ourselves in the same boat, switching roles with our aging parents and having some level of responsibility for helping to oversee their care.

As my family quickly learned, in order to make medical decisions on our father’s behalf we needed Health Care Advance Directives. These documents included a Living Will, which described the end of life medical interventions our father would want if he was unable to speak for himself, and a Health Care Power of Attorney which enabled us to make medical decisions for him. Needless to say these are extremely daunting decisions for any child (no matter how old ) to make and you’ll feel much better about making them if you gain a thorough understanding of your parent’s wishes and desires in advance.

This Wall Street Journal article on "Designing your Death Dossier," provides a basic roadmap for organizing all the essential medical, financial, legal and insurance documents you’ll need to manage your parents (and someday your own) eldercare journey. I found it to be an extremely useful guide for pulling together all my family’s files, and an amazing eye-opener to the wide range of information I needed to undertake the eldercare journey successfully. I suggest you read it NOW, so you can more easily take on WHAT’s NEXT.

After reading the WSJ article, and diving into caregiving, I created this List of Essential Documents to source and store all the documents my family needed. It breaks out the documents you should have on hand by category: Medical, Legal, Financial, Insurance and End of Life. I hope you’ll find it useful too.

You may want to create a Google Doc, Xcel File, or Spreadsheet to store all this data. Sharing these files with your family members and helping them gather the documents with you is a really good idea. Yes, it takes time, but it will be essential to know where all these documents are at some point in the eldercare journey, and the sooner you get started, the better.

Essential Eldercare Documents


  • Health Care Advance Directives
  • Durable health-care power-of-attorney
  • Living Will
  • Do Not Resuscitate Order
  • Organ Donation
  • HIPAA Authorization Release Form


  • Original Will
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Durable Financial Power-of-Attorney
  • Marriage License
  • Divorce Judgement


  • Safe Deposit Box and Key Location
  • Bank Accounts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Stock certificates
  • Savings Bonds
  • Pensions
  • Annuities
  • IRA’s
  • 401 K’s
  • Tax Returns
  • Partnership or Corporate Ownership Agreements
  • Mortgage Accounts
  • Escrow Accounts
  • Real Estate Tax Bills
  • Loans
  • Debts
  • Deeds to home/s
  • Land Ownership Documents
  • Vehicle Ownership


  • Life Insurance Policy
  • Health Insurance
  • Automobile Insurance
  • Other vehicle insurance
  • Homeowner’s Insurance

End of Life:

  • Death certificates
  • Instructions about Funeral Arrangements
  • Cemetery Plots

Join the Conversation

Are you familiar with all the documents you’ll need to successfully manage or oversee your aging parent’s care? Have you begun to organize them?