Aging Hand, Young Hand
Forms 101: Mary Winners on Important Documents

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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