EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU)— In 2019, there were more than 15 million widows and widowers in the US according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A Merrill Lynch/age wave study found that 53% of those left without a spouse say they did not have a plan.

Kevin Grebas is a certified elder law attorney in Moosic. He says every adult over the age of 18 should have an estate plan in place that includes 3 important documents.

The Last Will and Testament, the Financial Power of Attorney, and the Healthcare Power of Attorney.

“You’re appointing someone to make medical decisions for you if you lack the capacity to do so for yourself things like admitting you to the hospital, authorizing surgery, accessing your healthcare information so they can make informed decisions on your behalf,” Grebas explained.

It’s equally important for college-aged kids to also have a health care power of attorney. That’s because when minors turn 18, parents no longer have access to their children’s healthcare information

“If they become sick while they’re away parents can have access to their information and find out what’s going on,” Grebas said.

Included in the healthcare power of attorney are end-of-life directives.

“This is the portion of the document where you’re directing the types of treatment you would want withheld or withdrawn if you are near the end of your life,” explained Grebas.

The Financial Power of attorney allows whoever you appoint as power of attorney to step in and manage your money, your last will and testament coordinate, the distribution of your assets after death, management of your accounts, and appoint guardians for your minor children. It can also spell out when your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance.

“They don’t have to get it all at once, it can be given over time in trust,” Grebas noted.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of online accounts and passwords. Keep them all consolidated in a folder like this one for easy access.

“Think of it that way, as something you can do really as a final gift to your family,” Grebas added.

Another good idea is for parents to have joint bank accounts so that if one passes away, the surviving parent can have immediate access to those accounts to pay for such things as household expenses, funeral arrangements, and medical bills.