As your parents age, it often becomes the responsibility of their children to watch over their interests and make sure they receive adequate care. Some legal measures, like power of attorney and guardianship, can make this task a little easier. Before discussing how to get power of attorney for elderly parents, let’s review what a power of attorney is, and how it is different from guardianship.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney is a written authorization that lets you make decisions on behalf of your incapacitated loved ones. It can take effect immediately (durable power of attorney), or after your parents become incapacitated or a certain event occurs (springing power of attorney).
What Rights Does Power of Attorney Give You?
Powers of attorney can cover almost any decisions your parents would have to make: financial deals, gifts, assets management, health care, treatments, etc. They can be given all to you (general) or shared between you and your brothers (partial) or someone from the family.
Power of Attorney vs. Guardianship
In order for you to obtain a power of attorney, your parents need to give their authorization in front of a notary. The guardianship requires probate court approval and supervision, and involves proving the incapacity of your parents through medical statements. Parental guardianship only covers personal decisions, including healthcare, while power of attorney covers financial decisions as well.
It is easy to see why power of attorney is preferable to guardianship: it is easier to obtain, involves fewer and smaller expenses, and gives you more freedom. Of course, if your parents refuse to give you a power of attorney and they become incapacitated, guardianship may be the only way to have a say in their life and well-being.
How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents in 5 Easy Steps
- While your parents are alert and oriented, explain to them what power of attorney is and how it lets them make sure their wishes are fulfilled. They have to agree to give it to you before they become incapacitated, otherwise your only chance to protect their best interests is to file for guardianship.
- Write it down. In order to obtain power of attorney, you need a written and signed authorization. While there are numerous forms available online, you need to check whether the law in your state requires witnesses. Also, make sure you detail the powers your parents wish to grant you, no matter how broad or limited they are.
- Clearly state the parties. Your parents are the principal, the ones granting your power. You are their agent, or attorney-in-fact. If your parents want to, they can name alternate agents.
- Describe springing powers. If your parents want the authorization to become effective later on, you should mention the event marking its activation (the moment a physician determines their inability to make decisions).
- Besides mentioning when the power of attorney becomes effective, you also need to mention when/if it terminates, or how long it should last. Sometimes, the principals want the power of attorney to end when they become incapacitated. Other times, they decide to trust their agent for the rest of their lives.
How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents Revoked
If your parents have already granted power of attorney to someone else and they wish to revoke it, they need to act as soon as possible, while they are still able to make their own decisions. They can give a statement that they cancel the given authorization, they can change its terms, or they can issue another power of attorney to someone else, canceling your decision rights.
Power of Attorney Responsibilities
Receiving power of attorney can give you confidence and peace of mind. However, before you and your parents go through with the formalities, it is important to make sure that you are all aware of the implications and convinced of the step you are taking.
You will become responsible for the financial, physical, and psychological well-being of the people you love. By accepting the power of attorney, you are committing to fulfill their wishes, which may not coincide with yours.
Will you be able to put your own beliefs, ideas, and feelings behind, to listen to those expressed by your parents? Will you be able to go against their wishes and do what you consider best, thus betraying their trust.
Finding out how to get power of attorney for elderly parents or loved ones is easy. Understanding, accepting, and living up to the responsibilities that come with it is more complicated. Excellent communication is the only way to relieve some of the pressure and ensure a positive outcome for everyone.