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Caring for aging parents can be a stressful task. One of the many ways you can ensure you are there for your parents in the event that they begin to experience mental or physical decline is through a Power of Attorney.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives certain people the authority to make important healthcare, financial, and legal decisions on behalf of another.
There are many different types of Power of Attorney, each of which may be more applicable depending on one’s mental and physical health.
Setting up a Power of Attorney is easier than you may think. Learn more about how to get started right here at MedicareInsurance.com.
As your parent ages, you may start to think about what will happen if they get sick, injured, or start to experience mental decline. Even if your parent isn’t experiencing these issues right now, it’s important to start planning for the future while they are still healthy. If you wait until something happens to begin taking action, things can get very complicated, messy, and expensive very quickly. For this reason, it can be a good idea to work alongside your parent to obtain a Power of Attorney (POA) under the law.
Obtaining a Power of Attorney gives you the legal ability to make decisions about your parent’s finances and medical care. As stated, even if your parent has not begun to experience any cognitive or physical issues, it is still important to work on a plan with them while they are still healthy enough to participate.
Typically, it is up to the parent to name who they want to give Power of Attorney and how much control they want that person to have. In a situation where a Power of Attorney may be needed, your parent would be referred to as the “principal,” while the person granted Power of Attorney would be referred to as the “agent”. The agent is then able to act on behalf of the principal, within certain capacities according to which type of POA is granted.
Every state has slightly different laws when it comes to Power of Attorney documents, but most share some commonalities.
In order to issue a POA, your parent will have to sign willingly, granting legal authority to you, and fully understand what signing a POA means when it comes to their healthcare decisions. Someone who is considered to be mentally incapacitated cannot sign a POA. If your parent cannot meet this standard, you may have to consider an adult guardianship instead.
A Power of Attorney does not necessarily need to grant all powers to just a single person. For example, your parent may decide that they want you to handle their healthcare decisions and someone else to handle financial decisions.
The people or agents that your parent decides to appoint as Power of Attorney have a duty to act in your parents’ best interest. This is true regardless of whether the appointed agent is responsible for specific decisions or broader decisions.
It is also worth noting that a general POA will be terminated in the event that your parent, considered the principal in this document, becomes incapacitated, or unable to act for themselves.
A Power of Attorney is not a one-size-fits-all legal document. In fact, there are many different types of POA, each of which may be more applicable depending on you and your parents’ mental and physical health situations.
Also called a Financial Power of Attorney, this type of POA allows the agent to sign documents on the principal’s behalf, pay bills and cash checks, enter into contracts for services and utilities, buy and sell assets and real estate, open and close bank accounts, and withdraw funds as needed.
A Medical POA goes into effect in the event that your parent becomes incapacitated and medical decisions need to be made on their behalf. This type of POA must be granted in advance of your parent becoming incapacitated. A Medical POA encompasses decisions for medical treatments, surgical procedures, selection of health care and senior living facilities, and surgical procedures.
An agent, often called a “healthcare proxy” in this context, also becomes responsible for following the principal’s instructions and wishes. These instructions and wishes are agreed upon ahead of time via a living will or Advance Health Care Directive, a document which outlines treatment preferences in the event that one loses decision-making capacity or in end-of-life situations.
Power of Attorney is usually most valuable precisely at the point that your parent becomes incoherent, therefore demanding a type known as Durable Power of Attorney.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows the agent to make financial and medical decisions in all mental and physical situations on behalf of the principal. With a Durable POA, the principal reserves the right to revoke the agent’s authority at any time as long as the principal is considered coherent.
A Durable Power of Attorney differs from other POAs in that its granted decision-making power survives the principal’s incapacity. This means that as long as Durable Power of Attorney is granted in advance, it will continue to be effective even after your parent becomes incapacitated.
A Springing Power of Attorney is also signed in advance. Unlike a Durable POA, a Springing POA only becomes effective upon certain previously agreed-upon occurrences. Most commonly, a Springing Power of Attorney becomes effective once the principal becomes incompetent, incapacitated, or disabled.
Setting up a Power of Attorney should begin by talking to your parents, discussing the situations they want to be prepared for, and discussing the implications of the power granted.
Deciding which type of POA is most appropriate for your parents’ situation is important. Legal experts typically recommend Durable POAs because General POAs will terminate in the event that your parent becomes incapacitated.
Once you and your parent have settled on the type of decision-making power you should have and when it should take effect, you can begin drafting the Power of Attorney together. Start by detailing who the named agent will be and outlining the duties the agent will hold. When your parent signs the Power of Attorney, the signature may need to be witnessed and notarized to be considered valid, though exact requirements depend on your state.
After drafting a POA and ensuring its validation, the last step is to make copies of the documents and place them in relevant places, such as on file with a family lawyer, doctor, hospital, etc., so that important people will be aware in the event the POA comes into effect.
Helping your loved ones find the right healthcare process for their needs can be tough. Luckily, your parents can contact the experienced insurance experts at MedicareInsurance.com for help researching and comparing Medicare insurance plans that may be available in their area today! Simply utilize our live chat feature or call us at (800) 950-0608 for assistance!