Making sure that elderly parent is taken care of and that their loved ones can help if something happens is vital. A properly executed power of attorney document allows another individual to make decisions (e.g., about the parent’s healthcare or property) if they cannot or choose not to do so for themselves. If you are curious how to get a power of attorney for an elderly parent, it is important to understand that it depends on the law of the state where the parent is located. However, the importance of this legal document cannot be overstated. Having this legal document can help families put a plan in place in case elderly parents cannot care for themselves or make decisions about their lives.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a document that the elderly parent (the principal) signs, which gives authority to another person (the agent) to make decisions on their behalf. The principal can also name alternate or successor agents who can take the place of the primary agent if they cannot or choose not to perform their obligations. With a power of attorney, the principal describes the agent’s scope of authority, what types of decisions they can make, and when.
Putting a plan in place for when elderly parents cannot make decisions for themselves can be immensely beneficial and a relief for the entire family. If or when a health emergency happens, the elderly parent’s loved ones can refer to this document and use it to take proper action.
What Are the Different Types of Power of Attorneys?
There are multiple types of powers of attorney, each concerning a different aspect of someone’s life. The two most common powers of attorney are a power of attorney for healthcare and a financial power of attorney. Different states may allow for other types of powers of attorney, such as a limited power to perform motor vehicle transactions under Texas law.
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A power of attorney for healthcare (also called a Medical Power of Attorney form in Texas) gives the agent the authority to make specific healthcare decisions in certain circumstances. The principal (in this case, the elderly parent) can indicate the specific date they would like the power of attorney to take effect or a triggering event such as surgery or if the elderly parent becomes medically incapacitated.
With a power of attorney, the principal also explains whether they would like their loved ones to take extreme life-saving measures, such as attempting resuscitation or using life support. For this reason, sometimes a power of attorney for healthcare is referred to as an advance directive or Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.
Financial Power of Attorney
With a financial power of attorney, the principal gives an agent the authority to make decisions about their assets. Similar to the medical power of attorney, in the financial power of attorney, the principal explains what types of decisions or transactions the agent can make on their behalf and when the power takes effect. The principal may name a specific date, date range, or triggering event when the agent has the authority.
Naming an agent under a financial power of attorney can be incredibly beneficial for aging and elderly parents. They can give one of their children the authority to, for example, pay medical or assisted living expenses on their behalf without having to burden the parent with these matters.
Where Can Someone Get a Power of Attorney?
People who want to learn where and how to get a power of attorney for an elderly parent have options. They can visit an estate planning attorney in their state or search on their state government’s health and human services websites. Some jurisdictions, like Texas, provide forms for use by the public and include general instructions on how to fill them out.
What Are the Requirements for a Valid Power of Attorney?
The requirements for what makes a power of attorney valid depends on the laws of the state where the principal resides. For example, to be valid under Texas law, a statutory durable power of attorney must meet the following requirements:
- It must be in writing.
- It must be signed in front of a notary.
- It must have the terms specified in the statute (or language similar to what is in the statute).
- It must be signed by the principal.
In Texas, the agent can accept the responsibility given to them under a power of attorney by acting within the scope of the document. Other states may require additional requirements, such as a witness or agent signing the form.
What Should Someone Do with a Power of Attorney After It Is Signed?
After obtaining a power of attorney, keeping the document in a safe place is very important. If the elderly parent stays at a hospital or assisted living facility, their loved ones can leave a copy of the document at the facility. They should also maintain a copy (preferably the original) in their records for safekeeping to ensure it is available when needed.
They might also want to consider keeping the original in a safety deposit box at their house or local bank. If an attorney helped them prepare the power of attorney, they could also ask them to keep a copy of the document at their office. Most attorneys are under ethical obligations to keep client files for an extended time period, so this can be a beneficial option for those who want to ensure the document is kept in a safe and secure location.
Where Can Someone Go for Help with a Power of Attorney Form?
Getting a power of attorney for an elderly parent can be stressful and confusing, especially for those who do not understand the law or are going through a healthcare crisis with their loved ones. For help, they can talk to an estate planning attorney or someone who has gone through the process before. If they obtain the form from a state agency, they can contact the agency to ask questions about using it.
Everyone wants the best for their loved ones and putting a plan in place for if or when an elderly parent cannot take care of themselves can alleviate the burden of the unknown. Understanding how to get a power of attorney for an elderly parent can help someone take the necessary steps to prepare for the future.