How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents
A comprehensive, highly detailed power of attorney is one of the most important legal documents for any senior to have. Putting a power of attorney in place provides numerous benefits for seniors. Unfortunately, many power of attorney documents are too general and cause more problems than they solve, especially for seniors. Generic forms are no substitute for the guidance and protection of a power of attorney that has been prepared by an elder law attorney in consultation with you. Here are ten top advantages that should motivate every senior to prepare or revise their power of attorney.
1. You get to choose who makes decisions for you.
As we age, it is more likely that we will need someone’s assistance in managing our finances at some point in time. If you prepare a power of attorney before that need arises, you are putting the world on notice that you have confidently chosen your designated agent to make decisions for you and have identified what kinds of decisions they have your permission to make. Choosing your agent is a significant decision. The person you select must be someone you can count on to make the right decisions for you and your best interests. They must be available and reliable in your time of need when you and the rest of your family are in crisis.
2. Businesses can deal with your agent concerning your affairs immediately.
Your agent will be able to step into your shoes and conduct your affairs. A power of attorney lets banks, hospitals, nursing homes, accountants, life insurance companies and other businesses know that they have your permission to deal with your attorney-in-fact concerning your affairs. Your agent then has your authority under the power of attorney to carry out your business. Without a comprehensive power of attorney giving authority to an agent, many companies will refuse to disclose any information concerning your dealings with them to your loved ones or refuse to provide services to you. These roadblocks can greatly frustrate your family at a time when the focus should be on you. They can also cost time and money.
3. A power of attorney makes a guardianship unnecessary.
A senior who does not have a comprehensive power of attorney in place when they become incapacitated must have someone else petition a court to appoint a guardian over their affairs to make financial, legal and medical decisions on their behalf. Oftentimes, the hospital or nursing home initiates these proceedings asking the court to appoint their attorneys to handle an incapacitated patient’s finances and the local departments of social services to make their health care decisions. Ultimately, the court will choose who is appointed and will continue to monitor the incapacitated person’s health and finances until they die. Sometimes, the court chooses a stranger to the family to fulfill the role of guardian. In addition to being a costly and time-consuming process, the incapacitated person has no input on who will be appointed to serve or the decisions they make.
4. The focus of powers of attorney change as we age.
As we age, our needs change. A good, comprehensive power of attorney will address new considerations brought about by age and health. Perhaps you have an old power of attorney that focused on who could care and provide for minor children in the event of your disability. Now, concerns about long-term care, applying for government benefits to pay for care, and choosing the right care providers are paramount to you. Unless you update your power of attorney to give your attorney-in-fact these powers, they will be unable to take needed action without involving the courts.
5. A designated attorney-in-fact can be recognized as your authorized representative under Maryland’s laws regarding nursing home resident rights.
Maryland’s laws regarding nursing home resident rights specify that attorneys-in-fact are persons authorized to act on a resident’s behalf. As such, your attorney-in-fact has access to and is required to be notified of certain matters that pertain to your health care in a nursing home, including your discharge from or transfer in the nursing home. Your attorney-in-fact also has the right to be notified of changes in your condition and has the ability to exercise your rights under the Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights. While it is best practice to have a separate health care directive, you can rest assured knowing that your attorney-in-fact will be able to participate in your health care while you are a nursing home resident.
6. A good power of attorney allows your agent to do asset protection planning for you.
Your power of attorney can and should include all of the powers required to do effective asset protection planning. Specific powers must be enumerated, or else your attorney-in-fact will be limited in what they can do to protect your lifetime savings. Mistakenly omitting these powers could cost you a lot of money. Although long power of attorney documents may appear to be overkill, certain verbose language is necessary to specifically identify certain powers so your attorney-in-fact can take the best acts to protect you and your lifetime savings through proper planning.
7. You can authorize your agent to take steps to secure public benefits for you.
Navigating eligibility for public benefits is difficult and complex. Congress has authorized certain ways for you to tap into the public benefits you have already earned. In consultation with an elder law attorney, your agent may need to liquidate and transfer your assets to maximize your public benefits. While courts may not be willing to approve transferring your assets, your attorney-in-fact would not need to get the courts involved in making these decisions if you have a good, comprehensive power of attorney in place. Your wishes to pass your lifetime savings to your heirs, rather than to pay them to the nursing home, can be met while getting you the public benefits you need to pay for your care.
8. You can protect your agent from claims of financial abuse.
Gifting often becomes integral to asset protection and public benefits planning strategies. Comprehensive powers of attorney can allow the agent to make substantial gifts to themselves or to others. Unless the power of attorney authorizes gifting, your agent (often a family member) could be prohibited from passing your lifetime savings and home along to your heirs during your lifetime without risking that doing so is financial abuse.
9. Preparing a power of attorney creates a great opportunity for you to talk with your family about your wishes.
When you prepare a comprehensive power of attorney, you put a tremendous amount of thought into your future. This is forethought you should share with your loved ones. Your choices of who will be your attorney-in-fact, as are your decisions about what acts they can take on your behalf, clearly communicate your wishes. For example, you may decide you want one child to handle your finances and another to handle your health. It would be beneficial to discuss these choices and roles with them. Whatever decisions you make, preparing a Power of Attorney gives you a wonderful opportunity to talk with your family about your hopes and expectations for your future and to discuss how they can best support you.
10. Your power of attorney will provide peace of mind for everyone involved.
When you create a power of attorney, you relieve a burden from being imposed on your family. Your wishes are clearly communicated. You have removed the guesswork from figuring out who should do what on your behalf. And you have empowered your family to conduct your affairs without involving the courts which will be a comfort for your family during your time in need.
Your individual situation will determine which benefits of a comprehensive power of attorney are most significant to you. Since no one can predict exactly which powers will be needed in the future, your planning goal should be to have a comprehensive power of attorney in place that gives your trusted agents all of the powers needed to do anything for you and your best interests in the future. Please call Senior-Legal if you would like to start protecting your tomorrow by preparing or revising your power of attorney.