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Comprehensive estate planning not only includes getting your finances and will in order but should also include discussions on whether a power of attorney (POA) is suitable for you or your parent. Elderly parents may need assistance making both financial and medical decisions, and a power of attorney can alleviate issues stemming from cognitive decline. But how do you obtain a power of attorney, and what type is right for you?

A power of attorney is a legal document that assigns rights and duties from your elderly parent - also known as the principal - to you or another trusted loved one. Once a power of attorney is signed, you or your parents’ loved one becomes an agent, also called the attorney-in-fact.

The agent can act on behalf of the principal, making decisions such as paying bills, managing investments, or whether to have surgery. The scope of the agent's duties and whether they can make certain choices is determined by the terms of the power of attorney and law.

Each state has its own laws governing power of attorney agreements and the legality of specific provisions. Ensure your POA both complies with the law of your state but any state you may need to act on your parents’ behalf.

Planning for a power of attorney can require difficult conversations. Prepare yourself by reading the following article to understand the basics of getting your parent a power of attorney that advances their wishes.

Why an Elderly Person Should Get a POA

End-of-life planning requires thinking and talking about challenging scenarios. Many individuals will face a period of decline or even incapacitation before they pass. For some, the onset of dementia or other diseases can take decades. Others may be injured in an accident or suffer a sudden trauma.

Elderly individuals should be prepared for needing assistance before they are incapacitated. These decisions are legally easier when someone is competent and will make things smoother if and when they are required. A well-thought-out POA will make it easier for you and your loved ones to transition into caring for an elderly parent.

Types of POA Available

There are a variety of types of power of attorney documents available. The first choice is between a financial POA and a medical POA.

Some people may want one loved one to make medical decisions and another to handle their finances. However, remember that for the elderly, health care decisions can quickly become financial choices. For example, whether to receive care at home or in a managed facility often requires reviewing costs.

Another type of POA is called a springing power of attorney. These only come into force once the principal is declared incapacitated.

Finally, you may want to ensure your power of attorney is durable. This means that the arrangement remains in force even if the principal is declared incapacitated.

Rights an Agent Has With POA for Elderly Person

For the agent, the rights and limitations by POA type change. If you are an agent for a medical POA, your decision-making rights are limited to health care (and, sometimes, paying for it).

Likewise, if you are the agent for your parent’s financial power of attorney, you cannot decide whether your parent needs to see a medical specialist on their behalf. Or if they should receive care in an assisted living home instead of trying to fend for themselves at home.

Getting a Power of Attorney for Parents

Talk with your elderly parent or parents about the benefits of having a power of attorney now. Be open, honest, and use good communication skills. Sometimes, it may be difficult to get an elderly parent to agree that the time may be right for end-of-life discussions. However, having conversations about the importance of a power of attorney before your parent needs someone to make decisions on their behalf is essential.

One simple way to bring up getting a power of attorney is to include a discussion as a part of estate planning. Part of preparing for the future is to ensure that what your parent has worked hard to accumulate is protected. Having a valid power of attorney is part of this process.

Financial planners and estate consultants should have experience navigating tricky power of attorney talks. But once you parent has concluded they need to have a power of attorney, consult with a local lawyer to ensure their wishes comply with local laws.

Power of Attorney for Parent with Dementia

Once your parent has dementia, it will be difficult to obtain a power of attorney without consent. Unless your parent is still legally competent, they will be unable to sign a power of attorney agreement. Instead, you may need to petition a court to allow you to be appointed their conservator or guardian. However, being an agent under a power of attorney vs. guardianship has many differences.

For one, being a court-ordered conservator or guardian means that your duties are derived from a judge. Having an enforceable power of attorney means that your parent agreed expressed their desire to have their agent make decisions on their behalf. Your parent also agreed to a certain scope of duties for the agent.

If you do not have a power of attorney in place before your parent is unable to legally make their own choices, you may face numerous fights. For one, there is no guarantee a court will appoint you to be the parent’s guardian. And since your parent can no longer clearly express their wishes, you may be faced with someone else having control of their finances and health care choices.

Creating an individually tailored power of attorney is simple once you have discussed the particulars with your parent. You can find easy-to-use templates that can then be adjusted to your particular needs. Just follow step-by-step instructions and keep your parent informed on all essential terms, so there is no friction later.

Create an Official Power of Attorney

FAQs About POA for Parents

  • When is the right time to set up a power of attorney for an elderly person?

    There is never a wrong time to set up a POA for your parents. Usually, this should be discussed during an annual estate planning session.

  • How to get power of attorney for elderly parents revoked?

    If you think your elderly parent has granted POA duties to the wrong individual, they will need to formally revoke this while still competent. They can do this by ending that arrangement through a statement or legal attestation, then possibly appointing a new agent or creating a new document.

  • How to evaluate the “capacity” of an older person?

    The legal definition of capacity differs from your elderly parent simply ‘losing it’ or having difficulty remembering some facts. Evaluate whether your parent can understand the context and consequences of a choice and make an informed decision. If they cannot, you may need to have them legally declared incapacitated because they may lack the ability to sign a document such as a power of attorney.

Comprehensive estate planning not only includes getting your finances and will in order but should also include discussions on whether a power of attorney (POA) is suitable for you or your parent. Elderly parents may need assistance making both financial and medical decisions, and a power of attorney can alleviate issues stemming from cognitive decline. But how do you obtain a power of attorney, and what type is right for you?

A power of attorney is a legal document that assigns rights and duties from your elderly parent - also known as the principal - to you or another trusted loved one. Once a power of attorney is signed, you or your parents’ loved one becomes an agent, also called the attorney-in-fact.

The agent can act on behalf of the principal, making decisions such as paying bills, managing investments, or whether to have surgery. The scope of the agent's duties and whether they can make certain choices is determined by the terms of the power of attorney and law.

Each state has its own laws governing power of attorney agreements and the legality of specific provisions. Ensure your POA both complies with the law of your state but any state you may need to act on your parents’ behalf.

Planning for a power of attorney can require difficult conversations. Prepare yourself by reading the following article to understand the basics of getting your parent a power of attorney that advances their wishes.

Why an Elderly Person Should Get a POA

End-of-life planning requires thinking and talking about challenging scenarios. Many individuals will face a period of decline or even incapacitation before they pass. For some, the onset of dementia or other diseases can take decades. Others may be injured in an accident or suffer a sudden trauma.

Elderly individuals should be prepared for needing assistance before they are incapacitated. These decisions are legally easier when someone is competent and will make things smoother if and when they are required. A well-thought-out POA will make it easier for you and your loved ones to transition into caring for an elderly parent.

Types of POA Available

There are a variety of types of power of attorney documents available. The first choice is between a financial POA and a medical POA.

Some people may want one loved one to make medical decisions and another to handle their finances. However, remember that for the elderly, health care decisions can quickly become financial choices. For example, whether to receive care at home or in a managed facility often requires reviewing costs.

Another type of POA is called a springing power of attorney. These only come into force once the principal is declared incapacitated.

Finally, you may want to ensure your power of attorney is durable. This means that the arrangement remains in force even if the principal is declared incapacitated.

Rights an Agent Has With POA for Elderly Person

For the agent, the rights and limitations by POA type change. If you are an agent for a medical POA, your decision-making rights are limited to health care (and, sometimes, paying for it).

Likewise, if you are the agent for your parent’s financial power of attorney, you cannot decide whether your parent needs to see a medical specialist on their behalf. Or if they should receive care in an assisted living home instead of trying to fend for themselves at home.

Getting a Power of Attorney for Parents

Talk with your elderly parent or parents about the benefits of having a power of attorney now. Be open, honest, and use good communication skills. Sometimes, it may be difficult to get an elderly parent to agree that the time may be right for end-of-life discussions. However, having conversations about the importance of a power of attorney before your parent needs someone to make decisions on their behalf is essential.

One simple way to bring up getting a power of attorney is to include a discussion as a part of estate planning. Part of preparing for the future is to ensure that what your parent has worked hard to accumulate is protected. Having a valid power of attorney is part of this process.

Financial planners and estate consultants should have experience navigating tricky power of attorney talks. But once you parent has concluded they need to have a power of attorney, consult with a local lawyer to ensure their wishes comply with local laws.

Power of Attorney for Parent with Dementia

Once your parent has dementia, it will be difficult to obtain a power of attorney without consent. Unless your parent is still legally competent, they will be unable to sign a power of attorney agreement. Instead, you may need to petition a court to allow you to be appointed their conservator or guardian. However, being an agent under a power of attorney vs. guardianship has many differences.

For one, being a court-ordered conservator or guardian means that your duties are derived from a judge. Having an enforceable power of attorney means that your parent agreed expressed their desire to have their agent make decisions on their behalf. Your parent also agreed to a certain scope of duties for the agent.

If you do not have a power of attorney in place before your parent is unable to legally make their own choices, you may face numerous fights. For one, there is no guarantee a court will appoint you to be the parent’s guardian. And since your parent can no longer clearly express their wishes, you may be faced with someone else having control of their finances and health care choices.

Creating an individually tailored power of attorney is simple once you have discussed the particulars with your parent. You can find easy-to-use templates that can then be adjusted to your particular needs. Just follow step-by-step instructions and keep your parent informed on all essential terms, so there is no friction later.

Create an Official Power of Attorney

FAQs About POA for Parents

  • When is the right time to set up a power of attorney for an elderly person?

    There is never a wrong time to set up a POA for your parents. Usually, this should be discussed during an annual estate planning session.

  • How to get power of attorney for elderly parents revoked?

    If you think your elderly parent has granted POA duties to the wrong individual, they will need to formally revoke this while still competent. They can do this by ending that arrangement through a statement or legal attestation, then possibly appointing a new agent or creating a new document.

  • How to evaluate the “capacity” of an older person?

    The legal definition of capacity differs from your elderly parent simply ‘losing it’ or having difficulty remembering some facts. Evaluate whether your parent can understand the context and consequences of a choice and make an informed decision. If they cannot, you may need to have them legally declared incapacitated because they may lack the ability to sign a document such as a power of attorney.