Making important decisions for aging parents can be a challenging task. Power of attorney (POA) enables individuals to make crucial decisions on behalf of their parents, such as managing their finances or making medical decisions, when they are unable to do so themselves due to age or illness.
While it may be difficult to approach this topic with your parents, having these discussions early on can help ensure that you follow their wishes when their health changes over time. Starting the conversation with empathy and understanding can make all the difference.
In this article, we’ll explore how to obtain power of attorney for elderly parents and provide helpful tips on how to approach these discussions with warmth and care. After all, our ultimate goal is to ensure that your aging parents receive the best possible care and support.
What’s a POA?
According to the American Bar Association, POAs are legal documents, which vary between states, that provide a person, or several individuals, with the power to perform actions on behalf of someone else. The individual with a POA is an agent, whereas the principal refers to the person who is having their affairs managed by other individuals. Agents can only perform actions outlined within the POA document. Moreover, if someone agrees to a POA, they can still make their own decisions, provided they are coherent. This means the agent cannot make exclusive decisions on behalf of the principal.
There are different types of POAs with varying functions.
- General: For this POA, the agent can manage the principal’s affairs for a specific period, and the principal may revoke this at any point. These automatically end if the principal becomes incapacitated and are common when an individual can still see to their affairs but prefers that someone else does this for them.
- Durable: These POAs continue after the principal becomes incapacitated and are more common when someone cannot manage their affairs. They can conclude in many ways, including once the principal dies or if the agent completes the conditions within the POA document.
- Springing: The terms in this POA do not take effect unless the principal becomes incapacitated. For this POA, the principal remains in control of their affairs until they lose capacity.
- Medical: These POAs allow agents to make the principal’s medical decisions until the principal is competent, and might also expire after a certain period mentioned in the document.
- Limited: These limit the agent’s ability to make decisions regarding certain tasks as outlined in the POA document, such as paying bills or selling a house. Limited POAs are usually temporary and end when the principal loses capacity.
Why and When to Consider a POA For Your Aging Parents
Here are the common reasons why individuals may consider getting a POA:
- Finance issues: POAs enable individuals to continue paying their parents’ bills and manage their finances when their parents struggle to fulfill these obligations.
- Serious illness: Having a POA for an elderly parent can be helpful as it allows them to focus on getting better and reduces the stresses associated with managing their affairs.
- Memory issues: Individuals commonly obtain a POA to manage their parents’ affairs if they develop dementia. It is helpful to note that it is necessary to obtain the POA before the parent loses their capacity.
- Surgery: When an elderly parent is undergoing surgery, it might be a good idea to obtain a POA so individuals can make decisions on their parents’ behalf and manage their affairs until they have fully recovered.
- Frequent travel: Some elderly parents like to travel frequently, so POAs can be useful here for ensuring their affairs remain in order while they are away.
How Do My Parents Choose a POA?
When your aging parents are considering a POA, there are several things to keep in mind. The most crucial factor is trust – they must choose someone who can be relied upon to make decisions in your parents’ best interests and follow their wishes.
While family members are often chosen for this role, it’s important to consider whether they are the best fit. If your parents think an objective outsider may be better suited to the task, such as a lawyer, accountant, or financial institution, this is also an option, although it may come with additional costs.
Before agreeing to be a POA for your parents, it’s essential to have a thorough discussion with them to understand their needs and preferences. Different types of POAs have different levels of responsibility, and it’s important to clarify what your parents expect from you. If your parents need help with medical decisions, for example, this will require more involvement than if they only need assistance with financial decisions.
Finally, it’s essential to understand the financial implications of becoming a POA. You will need to keep your finances separate from your parents’ and be prepared to justify any decisions you make to avoid legal issues.
Choosing a POA is a significant decision. By having open and honest discussions and seeking objective advice, you can ensure that your parents receive the best possible care and support.
If you have elderly parents, it’s understandable that discussing power of attorney (POA) may be a sensitive topic. However, starting these discussions as early as possible can bring peace of mind and clarity in the future.
When approaching these conversations, it’s important to consider your parents’ health and well-being. Let them know that you’re there to support them.
Additionally, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. We can provide objective advice and alleviate any concerns that your parents may have. We understand that this is a difficult process, but we’re here to help. Please feel free to contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you and your family.