What is a Power of Attorney and Why Do Seniors Need One?

what is a power of attorney

A durable Power of Attorney is essential for caregivers

It’s hard to think about, but a day will come when your senior won’t be able to make decisions for themselves. That’s when you’ll have to step in to manage their finances or decide what kind of medical treatment they should have.

If that day comes, you’ll need a durable power of attorney (POA).

 

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that lets your senior choose someone who will have the power to act in their place. It would allow you to make decisions on your older adult’s behalf.

A durable POA is one that stays in effect if they become unable to handle matters or make decisions on their own. As your senior’s chosen representative, you could pay their bills, manage their investments, or direct their medical care.

Important: Do not use an ordinary or non-durable POA for your senior because that would automatically end if they became incapacitated. That’s the opposite of what you’d need.

 

Who needs a Power of Attorney?

Because life is unpredictable, it’s recommended that anybody over age 18 should have a power of attorney. Once you become a legal adult, nobody else is legally allowed to make decisions on your behalf or talk to doctors about your medical condition.

With older adults, it’s more likely that a health emergency could happen. That’s why POAs are strongly recommended for all seniors.

 

Financial and medical Powers of Attorney

To cover the important issues, your senior will probably need two separate POA documents. One for healthcare and another for financial matters.

The reason for keeping these separate is to simplify things for the people who need to use the POAs.

Besides, your senior’s health care POA will probably be full of personal details that they wouldn’t want the people at the bank to know. And their doctor doesn’t need to know all about their finances!

 

What happens if there’s no Power of Attorney?

If your senior doesn’t have any durable POAs and something happens to them, you may have to go to court to get the authority to handle their financial matters and make medical decisions on their behalf.

During a health emergency, there won’t be time to do this. Instead, a stranger could be making those decisions! And if there is time, you certainly wouldn’t want the added stress and cost of going to court.

 

Where to get a Power of Attorney

An experienced local attorney can make sure your senior’s POA has everything they need and that it covers all the “fine print” in your state’s laws.

Do-it-yourself POA options are inexpensive, but have limitations. They won’t be completely customized for your senior and may not cover everything they’d need. The risk is that, since you’re not a lawyer, you wouldn’t know if something is missing.

Do-it-yourself options online

 

Bottom line

It’s smart to plan ahead and ask your senior to put a durable POA for financial and healthcare matters into place before they’re needed.

This will save you, your senior, and the whole family from big problems if a major health emergency happens.

 

Next Step  Find out how an elder law attorney can help with a Power of Attorney

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Attorney Negotiation Center

 

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