When Should I Get Power of Attorney for My Elderly Parents?

Thinking about your parents getting older and needing your help can be difficult. They may have medical issues or other problems, making it tough for them to make major decisions. You may need to manage their finances and make medical decisions for them. When this happens, you need to know how to get power of attorney for elderly parents.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney (POA) is legal authorization giving you the power to act for your elderly parent. A power of attorney gives you the authority to manage their finances and sometimes healthcare. You may have broad or limited power of attorney for elderly parents’ property, finances, investments, or medical care. There are two types of POA: financial POA and health care POA with general or limited capabilities.

Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents: When is the Right Time?

When people begin making financial plans for their elderly years, they may consider writing a will or setting up a trust. Another document you should discuss with your elderly parents is a power of attorney. You may feel uncomfortable speaking about it with your parents, but as their adult child, you have a right to protect them if they can’t make financial or medical decisions. Discussing the power of attorney, their will, 

trust, current finances, and end-of-life care helps them avoid potentially costly court litigation. 

Common Reasons Elderly Parents May Need a Power of Attorney

When considering how to get power of attorney for elderly parents, you need to know why your parent needs a POA. Some parents want to create power of attorney after a medical diagnosis like Alzheimer’s. Other elderly parents want someone to care for their bills and financial details as they travel.

5 Types of Power of Attorney

Types of power of attorney for elderly parents include durable and non-durable POA. Within those categories are five types of POA:

General Power of Attorney

 

A general power of attorney allows you to make decisions for your elderly parents in all situations. Financial decision-making and healthcare decisions are included in a general POA. A general power of attorney for elderly parents ends with an elderly parent’s incapacitation or being declared legally incompetent.

Special Power of Attorney

Special POA is also known as specific or limited POA. A special POA allows you to decide on a specific list of subjects or tasks. For example, you can have the power to sell your elderly parent’s home or set up their trust.

Non-durable power of attorney for elderly parents encompasses general power of attorney and special power of attorney. With a general POA and special, the POA starts with the signed document but ends when your elderly parent is incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney does not end with your elderly parent’s incapacitation or legal incompetence. If your elderly parent establishes you as their agent while they have their mental faculties, you can make decisions for them when they are no longer able.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Power of attorney for elderly parents for healthcare is known as a medical POA or healthcare directive. This gives you the power to make medical decisions for your elderly parent if they are unable.

Financial Power of Attorney

Financial POA gives you the power to make financial decisions for your elderly parent. A financial POA does not apply to other legal or medical decisions you must make for your elderly parent. For example, as a financial POA, you may make decisions about your parents’ savings accounts, retirement accounts, bills, and other financial responsibilities. 

How to Get Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent

How you get power of attorney depends on your parent’s capacity. Mentally competent parents can give you power of attorney. However, parents who are incapacitated or not mentally competent cannot authorize you to have power of attorney.

Competent Parents

Parents who are still competent but coping with a degenerative condition may need a durable power of attorney to manage finances and medical decisions. Speak with your parents and get their legal permission for durable power of attorney. If your parents are open to your obtaining power of attorney, the next step is to talk about the details with them.

Consult a Lawyer

The laws for powers of attorney vary from state to state, and you should consult an elder law attorney for the power of attorney document. The attorney can give you and your parents information about the rights you and they have in the POA document. The lawyer can help you and your parents understand the scope of decisions you have the legal power to make. They’ll also discuss how long a power of attorney will last and how you would use a power of attorney. The document should detail exceptions to those rights and any issue that would cause the POA to become invalid.

Execute the Document

You and your parents must sign the power of attorney document to validate it. State laws may also prescribe other requirements, such as having two witnesses sign or notarize the document.

Power of Attorney for a Parent with Dementia

Obtaining power of attorney for a parent with dementia differs from POA for a parent with adequate mental capacity. A parent who is incapacitated cannot legally sign a power of attorney. A judge can invalidate the power of attorney if your elderly parent is incapacitated. When a parent is incapacitated, you must petition the courts to appoint you as your parent’s conservator. You will need an elder law attorney to prove your elderly parent can no longer make medical, financial, or general life decisions.

Conservatorship Process

The conservatorship process is detailed, with a court assigning a committee of medical professionals and social workers to interview or examine your elderly parent. This committee reports its findings to the judge. Your parents will have their own legal representation assigned by the court. Their lawyer is responsible for explaining the conservator process to your parents. This lawyer will report to the judge about the parents’ comprehension of the proceedings. During the conservatorship proceedings, anyone can testify for your conservatorship or against the conservatorship. The judge reviews the information, rules on the petition, and assigns the rights and finances you have authority over for your elderly parent if the petition is successful. 

Who Should Have Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent?

A power of attorney document allows an elderly parent’s children or relatives to function as the power of attorney. The parents may decide who has the power of attorney, or the court will decide.

How to Talk to Your Parents About Getting a Power of Attorney

Discussing a power of attorney for elderly parents can be difficult. You may not be ready to think of your parents as incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions. However, you need to speak with them to protect and care for them if they cannot care for themselves. 

Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your parents. Explain your concerns about their health and whether they can care for themselves, now or in the future. Include other family members in discussions with your elderly parents. They may have already decided about power of attorney, and if they don’t have power of attorney, describe the various POA situations. They should have a lawyer to represent them if they want to sign a power of attorney document. Don’t pressure your parents since a power of attorney is their decision.

When Does the Power of Attorney End?

A valid power of attorney ends when the elderly parent dies. Control over the estate goes to the estate executor.

Ways to Cope with Making Hard Decisions as Power of Attorney

Legal consultations and signing documents are one thing. The emotional side of power of attorney for your parents is different and can be difficult. Seek the support of other family members if the role is stressful, sad, or exhausting for you. Include family members in the power of attorney decision-making process, but you will make the final decisions. For legal questions, consult an attorney who specializes in the power of attorney legal issues.

5 Tips for the Power of Attorney Process

  1. Remember, you are acting in the interests of your elderly parents, not your interests. Keeping this in mind protects your parents and helps to avoid legal problems.
  2. Before your parents become incapacitated, discuss their financial and medical care needs.
  3. Avoid conflicts of interest by keeping your assets separate from your parents’ assets. Mingling your assets with those of your elderly parents can make record-keeping difficult and raise questions about fraud.
  4. Keep detailed records of what you spend, your decisions, and your actions for your parents. Detailed records can support you if there are legal questions about your role as a power of attorney.
  5. Seek professional legal, medical, and financial advice if you have questions about how to care for your elderly parents or your role as power of attorney. Having power of attorney can be overwhelming, but help is available.

Discussing power of attorney with your elderly parents is difficult but necessary. The power of attorney conversation is the first step to keeping your loved ones safe during their old age. As a caregiver, a power of attorney provides peace of mind for all. 

Resources

A Guide to Medical and Legal Decisions: Planning for Your Peace of Mind – Information from the State Bar of Michigan about end of life planning.

A Guide to Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents  Information – From Caring.com about power of attorney.

American Bar Association – Information about power of attorney from the American Bar Association.

Blue Cross | Blue Shield | Blue Care Network – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers information about durable power of attorney.

CaringInfo – The website from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization includes information about advance care planning and caregiving.

The Conversation Project – The Conversation Project provides information about care through the end of life.

Decision-Making As An Enduring Power Of Attorney – Information about enduring power of attorney.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It? – Information from the AARP about dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How To Get Power of Attorney (And Why It’s Important) – Information from MetLife about power of attorney.

How to Get Power of Attorney for a Parent (Without Overstepping) – Information about discussing power of attorney with parents.

 

 

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