QUESTION: Recently, I was with a group of friends and the subject of getting your affairs in order came up. Each of us had a different opinion about what that actually meant. Do you have any suggestions as to when, how and where to start the process of getting your affairs in order?

ANSWER: Getting your affairs in order differs slightly for everyone, but some basic steps should be taken.

This pre-planning will eliminate the panic of what to do, how to do it and who will do it in the event of an emergency such as a long illness, disability or a death. We all know emergencies are never planned — they just happen.

To start the planning process, there are four basic steps:

  • First, if you have not had your legal documents prepared, make arrangements to have them completed. 
  • Next, select a place where these documents and any other important papers will be kept. 
  • The third step is to select a trusted family member or friend and tell them where those papers are stored so they can be retrieved if an emergency occurs. 
  • Last but not least, provide written consent to your doctor and lawyer to talk with the person you have named to act for you when you can’t act for yourself.

That sounds simple, but you really need to know what legal documents you should have and what function each one serves:

  • Will or trust: Allows you to name the person(s) you want your estate to go to upon your death. You also name the person you want to handle your estate. In a will you name an executor, in a trust you name a trustee.
  • Advance directive for health care: This document gives you the power to state what type of care you want should you become seriously ill or disabled and also gives you the opportunity to name the person you want to speak for you on health care issues when you cannot act for yourself.   
  • Durable power of attorney: This document gives the person of your choice the legal ability to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

In addition to these legal documents, you should compose a list of personal records, financial records, service records, insurance information, etc., listing each item and explaining where it can be found, if needed. This list should be kept with the legal papers.

When should you start getting organized? Do it now, since you never know when an emergency will happen. As you start planning, I suggest you seek advice from an attorney or certified financial planner.

This is a very simple explanation of getting your affairs in order, but I hope it helps you get started.


April 19, 8 a.m. to noon: Simi Valley Wellness Expo 2017 at the Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi in Simi Valley.

April 19, 1:30-3 p.m.: “Let’s Look at Volunteering in a Different Way” seminar at the Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. For more information, call 495-6250.

April 20, 1-3 p.m.: “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” seminar at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 381-2744.

April 20, 10 a.m. to noon: Six-week “Everyone with Diabetes Counts” workshop at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 886-6025.

April 23, 2-3:30 p.m.: History Comes Alive presentation of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” presented by Val Rains at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $5 at the Goebel front desk.

April 25, 5:30-7 p.m.: End-of-life planning seminar at Senior Concerns Adult Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 497-0189.

April 27, 2-2:45 p.m.: Long Term Care Ombudsman presents “What Is an Ombudsman? What Does an Ombudsman Do?” at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 381-2744.


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