Forms 101: Mary Winners on Important Documents

In this Your Turn to Care web extra, Gerontologist Mary Winners outlines how to prepare critical documents that provide guidelines for the care of an aging family member. Winners uses the acronym GIFT as a simple way to track the process. "G" is for gathering information. The "I" is for involving everyone - professionals, family members and so on. The "F" is for follow through on everything, especially all document requirements. Lastly, "T "is a reminder that family members need to tell everyone where all the documents are kept, as well as any other pertinent information.

Below is a brief introduction to some of the documents you may encounter during the GIFT process.

Note: This listing is intended as a starting point and provided for informational purposes only. There are many other resources available that you may wish to research. Listing here is not an endorsement of the organization or its web page content. If you have questions, please consult with your physician, lawyer, accountant or other appropriate person.

There are 3 important documents that you should have:

  1. Power of Attorney - Download POA-CA.pdf | Download POA-IRS.pdf
  2. Advanced Health Care Directive - Download AHD-California-sample.pdf
  3. A Will - Download Will-Form-CA.pdf

You should also consider a trust to protect your assets for the benefit of your heirs. A "Living Trust" can avoid probate and help reduce taxes. There are numerous types of trusts and it's best to seek the advice of an attorney specializing in estate planning.


  • It's important to have someone you trust legally assigned to act on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated whether it's due to an accident or illness.
  • No matter what your age, this is a "must-have" document.
  • You can either hire an attorney or purchase a Power of Attorney "kit" at office supply stores or online.
  • After preparing the documents, be sure to have the paperwork notarized or signed by two adult witnesses.

Here's a handy video that shows just how to fill out the POA form. And, you can find more forms and information about filing a Power of Attorney here:


  • An "Advance Health Care Directive" is a written document that spells out exactly what you want or don't want in the way of medical intervention, should you be physically unable to convey your wishes.
  • It's important that your physician, family or someone closest to you have a copy. If you frequent a hospital, it's also a good idea to provide them with a copy.
  • The document should convey your desires for such medical interventions as feeding tubes, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilators and even organ donation. The more specific you are, the better.
  • Too often patients wind up in the hospital without having filled out an Advanced Health Care Directive and loved ones are forced to make decisions under extreme stress. By having an "Advanced Health Care Directive" you ensure that your desires are followed.

More resources:


  • It's important that you list whom you want to receive your assets upon your death.
  • You can consult an attorney or download a free will template online.
  • If you're preparing your will yourself, all states require that you have two witnesses over the age of 18 except for residents of Vermont.
  • It's a good idea to have a third witness in the event that one witness dies or relocates. Keep in mind that a beneficiary of the will cannot serve as a witness.
  • Choose someone you trust as the executor of your will. This is the person who will be handling your personal affairs upon your death and overseeing that your assets are turned over to the beneficiaries.
  • Remember, you can always change your will but be sure to destroy old copies.
  • Keep your will in a safe place and let those closest to you know where it's located.

For more Information, check with your state bar association to obtain the appropriate forms for your residency. To learn more about estate planning strategies, talk with an experienced estate planning attorney or financial advisor.

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I have a question about power of attorney and guardianship.

My mother (who is 73, is blind in one eye and has hepatitis) and her best friend (who is 91 and has diabetes, kidney problems and high blood pressure) live with my brother & his family. My mother has slowly become her friend's primary caregiver and both of them live on the east coast with my brother's family, who both work and have a small child.

I live in LA.

My mother and her friend are not related but have lived together for over 30 years. (Although me and my brother joke about it a lot, they're also not a romantic couple, so they can't sign up for a domestic partnership.)

My mother's friend's diabetes has recently become increasingly difficult to manage because of the low kidney function. Her mobility has decreased and she uses a walker/wheel chair to get around.

I am worried that because they are not blood relations that we don't have all the forms (or even the right?) needed to take proper care of my mother's friend. She has family in Latin America that she has not seen in 20 years and doesn't really have anyone but us. I have asked my brother and mother about getting some kind of additional home care (like a visiting nurse?) for the 91 year old, but they worried that if they ask for help the city will take her away because she isn't a real relative and it is cheaper for Medicaid to put her in a home than provide for a nurse. That seems strange to me because the 91 year old seems mentally competent and is not in a bad situation besides needing a real nurse.

Any advice on what type of documents or legal structure they need besides the Power of attorney?



Thanks for reaching out. The Your Turn To Care team will follow up with you soon.

Yoli Martinez Community Moderator


To Eigen...If you do obtain a Durable Power of Attorney (financial) and Advanced Health Care Directive (health powers) they will need to be executed (signed and notarized)in the state where your mother and friend reside. You do not need to be a relative to choose who your agent is to delegate powers. Hope this helps.

MetLife Foundation The Lippey Family Trust Gladyce L. Foster
California Community Foundation