Almost everyone has dealt with a friend or family member who has been hospitalized and eventually transferred to an assisted-living facility. They may even come close to being declared legally incompetent. And sometimes it’s unlikely they will be able to resume independent living.

While all of this occurs, repeated efforts to comply with various health, legal and regulatory requirements mandate various documents and forms. Frequently no one seems to know whether “Mom” had some or all of these items, or if she did, where they might be.

The Internet is a great resource; on the website of the Maryland Department of Aging is a comprehensive list of important documents. It had been reprinted from an organization called the Children of Aging Parents

It is a good idea to begin gathering and updating these documents for your own use and to recommend the same process to members of your family. You may want to provide them with a copy of the list and to encourage discussion with a professional advisor.

While a durable power of attorney allows for continuity of management and safeguarding the principal’s assets in the event of incapacity, it can also be particularly useful for estate and other tax planning purposes. Properly drafted, a durable power of attorney permits an agent to carry out many of the principal’s critical planning goals, by granting the agent powers (such as the power to file income and gift tax returns, make gifts, disclaim property and make IRA elections). Two critical issues in executing a durable power of attorney are agent selection and powers granted.

Personal and Family

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Citizenship papers
  • Divorce/separation papers
  • Adoption papers
  • Social Security numbers/cards
  • Passports (numbers, expiration dates)
  • Driver’s licenses (numbers, expiration dates)
  • Military records


  • Health care professionals (names, address/telephone)
    • Physicians
    • Dentists
    • Pharmacists
    • Other professionals
  • Health care proxies/living wills
  • Medications (dosages, purpose, name of prescribing physicians, pharmacy, address/telephone)
  • Hospitals of choice (address/telephone)
  • Medicare numbers
  • Medicaid numbers (caseworker numbers, address/telephone)
  • Social worker or caseworker names (address/telephone)


  • Income sources (retirement and/or disability benefits, Social Security, etc.)
  • Financial assets (institution names, account numbers, address/telephone, form of ownership, current value)
    • Cash
    • Money market funds
    • Bank accounts
    • Retirement and pension plans
    • Stocks
    • IRAs
    • Bonds
    • Annuities
    • Mutual funds
    • Life insurance
  • Real estate (property addresses, location of deeds, form of ownership, insurance, current value)
    • Primary home (House Deed)
    • Investment property
    • Vacation home
  • Other assets (location of items/titles/documents, form of ownership, insurance, current value)
    • Automobiles (car title)
    • Collectibles
    • Boats
    • Interests in businesses
    • Inheritances
    • Hidden valuables/items in storage
    • Precious gems, jewelry
    • Loans to family members/friends
  • Liabilities (creditor institutions, address/telephone, approximate debt)
    • Mortgages
    • Notes
    • Personal loans
    • Safety deposit box
    • IOUs
    • Credit cards


  • Life
  • Health
  • Medigap – supplemental health
  • Long-term care
  • Dental
  • Disability
  • Homeowners/renters
  • Liability
  • Automobile (For each policy list company name, policy number, and location)


  • Wills (dates of documents, executor names, address/telephone)
  • Powers of attorney or durable powers of attorney (names, including backup, address/telephone)
  • Advance medical directives
    • Durable medical powers of attorney
    • Health care proxies
    • Living wills
  • Guardianships/conservatorships (names, address/telephone)
  • Trust agreements

Other Important Contacts

  • Professional advisors other than health care (name, address/telephone)
    • Attorneys
    • Insurance agents
    • Financial advisors
    • Stockbrokers
    • Bankers
    • Clergy
    • Accountants
  • Past employers (company names, address/telephone, dates of retirement, contact persons, employee ID numbers)
  • Close friends and neighbors (names, address/telephone, indicate those who have keys to house/apartment/condominium)
  • Service providers (names, address/telephone)
  • Club memberships, volunteer activities, and senior centers (names, address/telephone)
  • Landlord (name, address/telephone)

Other Information

  • Inventory of family historical records (documents, photos, keepsakes)
  • Burial instructions (funeral home location, name of director, whether funeral has been prepaid, cemetery plot location, organ donor instructions)
  • Safe deposit boxes (institution names, address/telephone, location of keys and list of contents, other names on safe deposit boxes)
  • Tax records