When you sign a power of attorney, you give someone else the power to act on your behalf. This person – or agent – can make important legal decisions for you related to things like healthcare, finance, and business. A power of attorney is often a necessary step for aging parents, who may be approaching a point where they can no longer make important decisions for themselves. When deciding power of attorney for elderly parents, you should consider the different types of power of attorney, outline the scope of the agent’s role, and choose a trustworthy agent with a good grasp of financial and legal matters.
Signing a Power of Attorney
A person can only sign for a power of attorney if they are “of sound mind.” For this reason, it’s best to have your parent set up a power of attorney while they’re still capable of making decisions for themselves. If your parent is in the early stages of a disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s, or if they’re about to undergo surgery, you may want to act quickly to set up a power of attorney for them.
If your parent is incapable of signing for a power of attorney, he or she may be eligible for a legal guardianship or conservatorship. This procedure is more complicated than just establishing a power of attorney, but in some cases, it may be your only option.
Durable POA or Non-Durable POA?
If your parent is of sound mind, though, the next thing to decide is which type of power of attorney will best suit his or her needs. A durable power of attorney enables an agent to continue making decisions for the signee when the signee becomes incompetent, while a non-durable power of attorney ends when the signee becomes incompetent. A non-durable power of attorney is best when you need an agent to complete a one-time action for you, such as a business transaction. If you’re choosing a power of attorney for an aging parent who may experience diminished mental capacity in the near future, a durable power of attorney is usually the best option.
Agents Role in POA
Once you’ve decided whether your parent should get a durable or non-durable power of attorney, the next step is to outline the scope of the agent’s role. In other words, decide how broad their powers should be and what decisions they should be able to make on your parent’s behalf. A general power of attorney gives an agent power to make general financial transactions on the signee’s behalf, including managing a business and residence. If you’re looking for a more specific and limited power of attorney, you may want to establish a special power of attorney. Under this arrangement, you or your parent can set limits to an agent’s powers and outline specifically which duties they will perform. For an elderly parent, a healthcare power of attorney is often a good idea. This third type of power of attorney grants an agent the power to make healthcare decisions for a person when that person is incapable of making such decisions for themselves, often due to a critical medical state like advanced dementia or a coma.
Choosing an Agent
Once you’ve settled the question of whether or not to get a power of attorney and which type is right for your parent’s situation, the final step is choosing an agent. This decision should never be taken lightly, as many agents with power of attorney have used their unique position to abuse the person they’re acting in behalf of.
An agent can be anyone from a family member to a professional lawyer or accountant. If you’re looking to get power of attorney for an aging parent, it may be best to appoint a family member who’s familiar with your parent’s situation and has his or her best interests at heart. Additionally, a family member will usually serve as an agent for free, while a licensed professional may charge a fee.
When choosing an agent to act on behalf of your aging parent, it’s critical to choose someone who is trustworthy, loyal to the person they’ll be representing, and capable of handling finances, if that’s a part of the position. If you decide to go with a family member, make sure the person you choose is financially responsible and that their motives are clear. In some cases, you may be the best person for the job, especially if you know your parent’s wishes well enough to act in their behalf. Don’t underestimate the importance of sitting down with the agent – and with your parent if possible – to discuss everything before your parent signs the power of attorney agreement.
Making the right decision about power of attorney will ensure your parent’s best interests are represented moving forward.