A power of attorney (POA) can be useful for protecting your aging parent’s health and assets in the event that they can no longer handle it on their own. A POA allows your parent (the principal) to appoint a trusted individual (the agent) to act on their behalf when it comes to the management of their finances, health, or personal affairs. However, executing a power of attorney can be a complicated process. Because of this, there are several things to keep in mind when discussing whether a POA suits your parent’s needs.
What can a Power of Attorney be used for?
Power of attorneys are highly customizable, meaning they can be utilized to address a variety of concerns. Most commonly, individuals seek a POA for their aging parents due to:
- Medical or Healthcare Concerns: Parents who suffer from chronic conditions, terminal illness, or are scheduled to undergo surgery can use a POA to appoint a trusted individual to make certain healthcare decisions on their behalf. This can provide your parent with a sense of security during an otherwise stressful time, allowing them to focus on their recovery.
- Alzheimer’s or Dementia: If your parent is recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia, a POA can be an excellent tool for managing their health and assets. However, because a POA can only be executed when the principal is of sound mind, this type of POA should be executed as soon as possible.
- Financial Concerns: If your parent is having difficulty managing their bills or finances on their own, a POA allows a trusted individual to do this on their behalf to protect their assets.
- Travel: POAs can also be useful for parents who travel regularly, ensuring that their assets and general obligations are maintained while they are abroad.
When should my parent execute a Power of Attorney?
If you are interested in pursuing a POA to address your aging parent’s needs, it is best to begin the process as soon as possible. An individual is only able to execute a POA when they are of sound mind, meaning you lose this option in the event of your parent’s incapacitation or worsening health issues.
How long does a Power of Attorney last?
The duration of the power of attorney is determined by the document, meaning the principal has significant flexibility in controlling when and how long an agent can act on their behalf. For example, a principal can decide that the POA comes into effect either when the POA is executed or a when a specified event occurs, like incapacitation. The principal can also dictate how or when the POA ends. Most commonly, the principal chooses to revoke the POA themselves, or it is revoked upon a specified event, like death, incapacitation, recovery from illness, or the appointment of a legal guardian.
For aging parents, it is recommended that the power of attorney be “durable,” meaning that the agent is still able to act if the principal becomes incapacitated. This allows the agent to make important decisions regarding the principal’s healthcare or personal affairs if they can no longer choose for themselves.
How is incapacity determined?
Incapacity is determined by either the definition under state law or the terms outlined in the document. Because some POAs only become effective upon the principal’s incapacitation, a physician may have to certify that the parent is incapacitated for the agent to be able to act.
What can the agent do on my parent’s behalf?
An agent is only able to act within the parameters outlined by the POA document. This means that the principal has significant control in determining what an agent will and will not be able to do regarding their health, finances, or personal assets. Examples include giving the agent the power to make healthcare decisions, pay the mortgage, or conduct business transactions on the principal’s behalf. However, it is important to note that an agent who is authorized to pay bills on someone’s behalf is not liable to pay it out-of-pocket. Instead, the agent is authorized to use the principal’s funds to pay the bills.
As you can see, executing a power of attorney can be difficult to navigate. If you have any further questions about executing a power of attorney for a loved one or are ready to schedule your free initial consultation, please contact Windrose Law Center PLC at 602-857-9386.
By: Aimee Harvey, Legal Intern, Windrose Law Center PLC