There are certain conversations you need to have with your parents, especially when they’re getting on in years.
For example, there may come a time when they need to give up driving or look into the possibility of assisted living, and so on. Yes, these are difficult topics to broach, but you also don’t want to delay discussing them for the sake of everyone involved.
If you wait too long, there’s a chance your parent’s wishes wouldn’t be followed. This is where estate planning comes in, which includes writing a will and designating a power of attorney for parents.
Here, we’ll talk about what a power of attorney (POA) is, how to set it up, and why it’s important in elder care.
Power of Attorney for Parents: The Basics
A POA is a legal document in which the principal (your parent/s) assigns another person (aka agent) to act on their behalf. Should your parents designate you as their agent or attorney-in-fact, it will be up to you to make decisions in either all matters or specific ones.
There are different features of a POA that could be helpful to aging parents and their loved ones. An example would be a power of attorney when someone is incapacitated or a General POA so that a trusted agent can look after their financial or property affairs.
Another type is the durable POA, which stays in effect for a lifetime. This is one of the most popular types of POAs, as it remains in effect even after the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.
For families who are caring for an aging loved one affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, this is necessary. Check out Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s for more information. Keep in mind that other POAs are no longer valid after death or when the principal becomes incapacitated.
Setting Up a POA
Though there are templates online you can use as a POA, it’s best to consult with a lawyer who can guide the family through the process.
Aside from giving advice on the type of POA that will best help your parents, a lawyer can help if there are matters complicating the situation. Let’s say, there’s a possibility that someone will contest the POA or when there are medical issues related to treatment (e.g. agreeing or declining to a medical transfusion, dialysis, etc.)
You should also note that it’s possible for your parents to appoint more than one agent. These agents could work together if your parents specified they should do everything jointly or they could work separately.
Ready to Carry Out Your Parents’ Wishes?
Now that you know more about the power of attorney for parents, it’s best to act as soon as possible. Don’t wait until their health declines and can no longer make decisions on their own.
If your parents didn’t set up a POA and it comes to a point where they can’t handle their affairs anymore, the court will have to take over. This will be a longer and more expensive process for everyone, so be brave and do what you have to do now.
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