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Publication #FAR6005

Caregiving and Legal Issues 1

Rebecca McGovney and Mary Harrison2

When care for an elderly or sick relative begins, discussions on financial and legal topics can be uncomfortable for both the caregiver and their relative. As hard as this may be, UF researchers say talking about legal matters is important.

As a caregiver, you should know the location of your relative's important legal documents. This includes their birth certificate, Social Security card, insurance papers, and property deeds. Are these kept at home or in a bank box? Where would your relative prefer them to be kept? If something should happen to your relative, will you have access to these items?

If your relative has a will or other such documentation, find out where they keep it and who helped them to create it. You might want to meet with a lawyer to review what the will says and to make sure it is up to date. If your relative does not have a will, ask if they would like to create one and help them find a professional who can help them do so.

Also discuss with your relative who will have power of attorney to make legal and medical decisions if something were to happen to them. If they have made this decision, speak with their lawyer to review the paperwork.

Asking your relative these simple questions now can prevent potentially catastrophic problems down the road. There are too many sad stories of families caught off-guard and dealing with picking up the pieces at an already difficult time.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR6005, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 47 and published December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Rebecca McGovney, master's student, and Mary Harrison, professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.