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If you have become the primary caregiver for a loved one, you may be overwhelmed by the many responsibilities on your shoulders. The list of responsibilities can sometimes feel endless, from driving to appointments to cleaning, cooking, and medicine management. But one of those responsibilities is often a little too easy to shove off until later: legal documents. There’s no due date or pressing hard deadline, so it’s easy to avoid while you have immediate responsibilities. But in this article, we’ll explain why you should consider setting a hard deadline for yourself and get them handled sooner rather than later.

What are care-related legal documents?

Care-related legal documents help an individual designate ahead of time how they want their life, care, medical decisions, and posthumous decisions to look.

These documents not only (usually) provide a legally-binding arrangement to bring peace of mind to the care recipient, but also offer clarity and peace to those around them. By pre-arranging the decisions how the care recipient would want them, their loved ones can take swifter action with the confidence that it’s exactly what the care recipient would want. 

Why are care-related legal documents important to do early?

When discussing legal documents with your loved ones, it can feel uncomfortable, but having them all in place is extremely important. The reason is that they’re only legally binding and useful if made without duress (meaning that you’ve made them with a sound mind). It’s also beneficial to give yourself enough time to manage them in the presence of an attorney. If your loved one’s health is declining it’s important to have everything in place before it’s too late.

What care-related documents should I have in place?

Although there are innumerable documents that can be useful and important, here are six worth considering to start with: 

Carer’s Agreement

A carer’s agreement is a written contract that outlines the expectations and responsibilities of both the caregiver and the person receiving care. It’s not a legal document per se, but it’s an important communication tool to help you both set boundaries and expectations about the new state of your relationship. It can cover a range of issues, such as the type and frequency of care, how to handle payments for expenses, emergency and non-emergency contact sequences, arrangements for respite care or backup support, and anything else you can think of. The agreement can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between the caregiver and care recipient, and provide a clear framework for the caregiving relationship.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint someone to make financial decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so. The person appointed as the attorney (note: it doesn’t need to be an actual attorney, most commonly it would be your spouse, child, or someone you trust) can manage your finances, such as paying bills, selling property, or making investments. There are different types of power of attorney, including enduring power of attorney, which continues to be effective even if you become mentally incapacitated.

Enduring Guardianship

An enduring guardianship is a legal arrangement where your loved one appoints someone to make personal and medical decisions on their behalf if they become unable to make those decisions themselves. This can include decisions about where you live, what medical treatment you receive, and other aspects of your personal care. Like an enduring power of attorney, an enduring guardianship continues to be effective even if you become mentally incapacitated. 

Advanced Care Directive

An advanced care directive is a legal document that sets out your desires for medical treatment and other healthcare decisions if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. It can cover a range of issues, such as whether you want to be resuscitated, whether you want life-sustaining treatment, funeral arrangements, and whether you want to donate organs. An advanced care directive can provide important clarity and guidance to your healthcare providers and family members about your wishes and preferences. This can become incredibly important in the event of sudden incapacitation, so your loved one knows exactly what you want them to do without fear or guilt over the decision.


A will is a legal document that outlines how your loved one’s assets and property should be distributed after death. Within it, you can also do things like appoint an executor to manage your estate or make provisions for guardianship of any minor children. By having one in place, a will can help to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and can help to prevent disputes and conflicts among your family members after your death.

Living Will

A living will is a legally binding and specific type of advance directive that outlines your medical treatment preferences, particularly in the event of a terminal illness or injury. It specifies the medical procedures or interventions you do or do not want to receive in the event these choices become necessary. 

Closing Thoughts

We hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of the types of legal documents you should arrange sooner rather than later. If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your local CRC and ask any questions you may have. 

Further Reading Spotlight: California Department on Aging

As an aging adult, California is one of the best places to be in the country. California has a wealth of resources and support available for elderly adults, family caregivers, and their families. From healthcare options to social services and financial resources, there are a number of programs ready to help you get the support you need. 

Let’s explore the resources and support available in California thanks largely to the California Department on Aging.

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