Making important decisions for aging parents can be a challenging task, but power of attorney (POA) can provide peace of mind and clarity in times of need. POA enables individuals to make crucial decisions on behalf of their parents, such as managing their finances, 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 if their health changes over time. Starting the conversation with empathy and understanding can make all the difference.
In this article, I will 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, my 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 (a/k/a “attorney-in-fact”), 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, providing they can still do so coherently. This means the agent cannot make exclusive decisions on behalf of the principal.
Below is more information regarding the different POA types:
- General: For this POA, the agent can manage the principal’s affairs for a specific period (including an expiration date is optional), and the principal may revoke it at any point. The authority under this POA automatically ceases if the principal becomes incapacitated. This type of POA is common when an individual can still see to their affairs but prefers that someone else does this for them.
- Durable: These POAs are effective as soon as they are signed and continue to be effective even 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.
- 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.
Note that the Minnesota Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney, which is widely used, can be a general or durable power of attorney.
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 I Choose a POA For My Parents?
When considering a POA for your aging parents, there are several things to keep in mind. The most crucial factor is trust – you must choose someone you can rely on 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 you 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.
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 for your aging parents is a significant decision, and it’s essential to approach it with care and sensitivity. By having open and honest discussions and seeking objective advice, you can ensure that your parents receive the best possible care and support.
Contact Me, Your Local Personal Family Lawyer® To Learn More About Obtaining A Power Of Attorney For Your Elderly Parents
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 and that you will only use the POA powers if it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a promise that can help reassure your parents that you have their best interests at heart.
Additionally, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. They can provide objective advice and alleviate any concerns that your parents may have. I understand that this is a difficult process, but I’m here to help. Please feel free to contact me today to learn more about how we can assist you and your family.