How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents
Aging is a bittersweet part of life. Aging is a sign of life and having lived for many wonderful years. But aging also tends to come with challenges, such as decreased health. Moreover, aging comes with the need to plan for a future when a person has fewer tomorrows than yesterdays. In this article, we address one pertinent aging question, how to get power of attorney for elderly parents.
Getting a Power of Attorney for an aging loved one is one way to prepare. It will make the transition into the later stage of life easier on everyone. POA’s are not something people like to think about. However, just like getting life insurance and a will, a Power of Attorney can be helpful and prevent the stress of needing one when it’s a little too late to get a Power of Attorney easily.
Why Should You Get a Power of Attorney for Your Elderly Parents?
Think of everything you have access to and do on a daily or monthly basis. You might call and make a payment to the electric company. Maybe you called the bank to ask about an unknown charge. Maybe you called your insurance company to make some adjustments to your coverage. It is easy for the account holder to complete tasks. However, when you aren’t the primary or secondary owner of the account, completing even the simplest task, like paying an electric bill, can be difficult.
Sometimes the bank will want the account holder’s information, and sometimes a hospital will want a Power of Attorney. You may also need a POA for less frequent things, like selling property. If you have an aging parent, it is time to start talking to them about a POA. Ask them how they plan to manage their finances and health care decisions if they become unable to do so.
Why You Can’t Wait to Get a POA
As people age, they can sometimes suffer memory loss, or other cognitive disorders that require the help of others to complete simple tasks. You shouldn’t wait until your elderly parent reaches that stage before getting a POA though.
If your parent’s health and mental capacity decreases significantly, it can be impossible to get a POA. Then, you will instead have to petition the courts for adult guardianship. It is important to start talking to your parents about who they would like to help them with finances and medical decisions if they become unable to manage it themselves. By talking about it, you can get the POA set up before it’s needed. This will allow you and your family to focus on what is really important, instead of focusing a legal battle.
What Type of Power of Attorney Should I Get for My Elderly Parent?
There are different types of Power of Attorneys and knowing the difference can help you better prepare for getting one. When discussing POAs, the agent is the person who is acting on behalf of the person who is labeled as the principal. In this case, the elderly parent is the principal, and you are the agent.
There are 4 types of Power of Attorneys you need to know about so you can get one that is best suited for your situation and plans.
GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
A general POA allows an agent to act on behalf of the principal in almost every aspect. Some businesses may require a special POA for their business and will not accept a general POA. However, for the most part, a general POA can allow the agent to handle the principal’s accounts and transactions.
A General POA is a great option if you think you will be paying bills, closing accounts, or opening accounts for your elderly parent before they become incapacitated. It’s important to know that a general POA is no longer valid after the principal becomes incapacitated. That means if your elderly parent can no longer make decisions for themselves, the POA becomes invalid. After that, you will need to petition the courts for adult guardianship. For this reason, a general POA may not be the best option for managing an elderly parent’s accounts.
SPECIAL OR LIMITED POWER OF ATTORNEY
A Special Power of Attorney is limited to specific acts. In this case, the principal decides what they would allow the agent to do and lists it in the POA. This prevents the agent from having the ability to commit acts the principal would not do for themselves or consent to.
If your parent is worried about you having the ability to open accounts under their name, a special or limited POA can give them peace of mind. They can then control what the POA can be used for. Some businesses may also require a specific special POA for their business. For example, a bank may require a special POA. Make sure you or your elderly parent contact the accounts you might be handling. That way, you will know whether or not a special POA is necessary for their accounts.
SPRINGING POWER OF ATTORNEY
A springing power of attorney allows the power of attorney to only become valid after a specific point. These are great for elderly parents who want to wait until they can no longer manager their own accounts before giving someone else the power to manage them. As with the special/limited POA, the principal can determine what they want to allow the agent to have access to and be in control of.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
This power of attorney is another great option for elderly parents because it remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated. This POA also goes into effect immediately, giving the agent immediate access to it. This is great for an elderly parent who is not incapacitated, but wants a little help with some things and then wants the agent to fully take over when they do become fully incapacitated. This POA should have all of the specific permitted powers listed on it.
What Should Be Included in the Power of Attorney?
This should be a discussion between you and your parent to decide what they are comfortable having you in charge of. They may want you to have a POA for their bank accounts so you can withdraw money for them. Or, they want you as a POA for their finances so you can do their taxes for them. Also, they may also want to allow you to make medical decisions for them.
Common Uses for a POA:
- Buy or Sell Property – If your loved one becomes incapacitated and can no longer live in their home, you may decide to sell their property. You may have also discussed purchasing property for them to be closer to you.
- Pay Bills – Some bill payments require the account holder to make the payments, in these cases, you will need a POA to make a payment on the account.
- Open or Close Accounts – If your loved one moves and you need to turn off the utilities to their home or open a new account, you will most likely need a POA.
- File Taxes – In order to file taxes on someone else’s behalf, you need a POA.
- Make Medical Decisions – If your loved one needs treatment for an ailment but they cannot make decisions for themselves, having a POA will allow you to make decisions regarding treatment. A medical POA is different from a medical directive or living will.
Difference Between a Medical Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive
Healthcare directives and medical POAs are not the same. Healthcare directives gives directions to medical professionals to carry out the will of the individual in the circumstance that the person becomes incapacitated and requires medical care to keep them alive. Most medical directives involve end of life decisions, such as if the person wants to die naturally or be given medication to ease pain and suffering. They may also have information in the directive on how to handle life support and resuscitation.
Medical POAs are different because it leaves the agent in charge of decisions regarding the principal’s healthcare. This can be used for a lot of medical decisions that may need to be made after the person becomes incapacitated, and before they reach the end of life state. For example, an elderly parent with dementia could fall and hurt themselves. During this time, the medical POA will be asked how to proceed with treatment, such as consent to surgery, or pain management. The principal has to lack the mental capacity to make medical decisions for themselves in order for a medical POA to be activated. An agent cannot make medical decisions for a parent who is capable of making their own medical decisions.
How can I get a Power of Attorney for my Elderly Parent?
Are your elderly parent is of sound mind and judgement, and not mentally incapacitated? Then, you can have a lawyer draw up a Power of Attorney for a fairly low cost. This is the best method to get a POA. It allows you and your parent to be walked through each part of the POA. Then each party fully understands and agrees to everything. Using a lawyer is also a good idea because they can help identify your specific needs for the POA. Also, the lawyer can ask questions to identify what type of POA best suits the needs of your situation.
There are a lot of websites and programs that will draw up the papers for you for a small fee. The websites ask you for questions regarding what kind of POA you would like and then creates the forms for you to print at home. In these cases, you will need witnesses to be present when signing the document, and the form should be notarized. Use caution when using programs and websites that offer POA forms though. While it can be convenient and cheaper than using a lawyer, you will not get any legal advice or guidance.
Final Thoughts on How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents
Getting a Power of Attorney for your elderly parents can sound daunting. However, you have a few options that can make things simple. We always recommend finding a good professional to help you.