May 13, 2023

Legal Documents and Paperwork: The Evil Twins


This is a logical and necessary follow-up to the recent post about the legal documents we should consider having on hand,  No matter how well we prepare for what may happen to us, that future will still be lined with papers. It is easy to forget that there remains a crucial role for paper in the legal, medical, and financial worlds. 

Many of us depend on the Internet, smartphones...all manner of electronic devices that keep us informed, help us pay our bills, and even entertain us. Electronic medical record keeping has almost replaced written patient files and reports. 

Think of the dreaded Patient Portal that replaced human interaction at most doctor's offices. Nothing frustrates my wife more than those online ten-page forms she must complete over and over again before being able to keep an appointment.

Eight years ago, I wrote about the almost overwhelming flood of paperwork after my Dad died. Right after that experience, Betty and I sold one home and bought another. Yep, even more forms to acquire, fill out, have notarized, and file with the appropriate government office.

Computers and electronics may dominate our day, but not a good chunk of life. The wonderful world of no more paper forms still waits for us somewhere in the future.

When my father passed away, I had to:
  1. Fill out stacks of papers at the mortuary
  2. Apply for more than a dozen copies of the official death certificate
  3. Sign forms when his death certificates were finally ready to be picked up
  4. Fill out a form and provide a copy of the death certificate to Social Security
  5. Sign more forms and provide a copy of the death certificate to close out his checking account.
  6. Fill out a form and provide a death certificate to the Veteran's Administration.
  7. Sign dozens and dozens of papers and provide a stack of death certificates to begin to deal with his trust and investments. 
  8. Alert the Post office about a change of address

Since we decided to sell our house and buy another, we have had to:
  1. Sign and initial a 13 pages selling contract
  2. Full out a 12-page detailed report on all known problems with the property
  3. Prepare a counteroffer form.
  4. Sign a counter to the counteroffer
  5. Sign multiple forms for the Title company
  6. Agree to have a lock box put on the property
  7. Initial and sign a multi-page offer-to-buy contract
  8. Fill out and sign another dozen forms from the Title company for the purchase
  9. Sign paperwork to order a home inspection on the new home
  10. Sign agreements for service termination and service start-up.
  11. Complete at least 8 online change of address forms

My dad's situation required  60 days to wrap up and then file an estate and personal tax return for the next five years until everything was done.. If you have ever sold and bought a home, you know all about the last-minute surprises that can make closing day very stressful. And let's not forget about dealing with the DMV about driver's license address changes!

Parts of our life continue to require paper and ink. No matter how powerful the Internet may be, our trees remain in danger: we use a lot of paper.


  1. I'm reminded of the hoops we had to jump through when mom moved to the supportive living residence - POA forms, change of mailing address. She wasn't allowed to keep the post office box she'd had for decades (without a fee) b/c she'd changed residence even though the home town was the same. To your point, I'm not convinced that digital documentation is any less cumbersome. I've come across so many digital forms that don't populate properly, provide unclear instructions, require repeated population. Connecting with a real person for clarification results in hours on hold on the telephone. And when the internet goes down or the computer crashes or the power goes off, we're all hooped. In many instances, we've been legislated into a standstill.

    1. My wife sees a lot of different doctors. Every time she must navigate a poorly designed online multi-page check-in and history gauntlet that often kicks her out before completion.

      It is highly unlikely anyone actually reads all this stuff. It is collected for legal protection more than medical insight.

  2. My day became suddenly ill during covid, 3000 miles away! I am an only child,I had no help. He had not done a will, a power of attorney or an advanced directives. He became critical.You can’t imagine how difficult it was to navigate all this on long “group “ phone calls from across the country—with social workers,doctors, etc. On one phone call, the resident gave me a ‘report” about someone’s condition that turne doiut NOT to be my Dad! He mixed up his patients!!!! My Dad passed away 2 days after we were able to get these papers done.. it was a true nightmare.. please, everyone, do your relatives a favor and be prepared.

    1. Yes, getting all the paperwork completed well before needed is an act of responsibility and love.

  3. My “DAD” not my day.

  4. PS: Have you and Betty decided to move?!

    1. We have moved our timetable up..hopefully in 2 years or so instead of four.

  5. Woops..those last couple of comments were from me.. I forgot to go in and manually add my name.. it won’t automatically figure out who I am anymore!