Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows someone else to act on your behalf.
POA for finances:
Gives a designated person the authority to make legal/financial decisions on behalf of the person.
POA for healthcare: Gives a designated person the authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the person.
Powers of attorney can be helpful to older people and others who want to choose a trusted person to act when they cannot. Creating a POA is a private way to appoint a substitute decision-maker and is relatively inexpensive. If you don’t create a POA in advance, a friend or family member might have to go to court to have a guardian appointed – and that process can be lengthy, expensive, and very public.
A financial POA can be used as a tool for planning for future incapacity – an inability to make financial decisions due, for example, to dementia, traumatic brain injury, or some other impairment that affects mental function. When used for advance planning, a POA generally is “durable,” meaning it continues to be effective even if the person creating it becomes incapacitated. A financial POA can also be used for short-term purposes: for example, if a servicemember is deployed overseas, he or she may create a POA so someone can pay bills, sell property, or handle other business in his or her absence.However, a POA does involve some risk. It gives someone else – your agent – a great deal of authority over your finances without regular oversight.
Families should prepare these legal documents long before someone starts having trouble handling certain aspects of life. At the time of the signing, the elderly person establishing a durable power of attorney must be capable of deciding to seek assistance. They must be "of sound mind" and able to appoint a POA.
A durable power of attorney can be written so that the transfer of responsibilities occurs immediately.
Or, the POA can state that the POA goes into effect when your elderly parent becomes incapacitated. Until that point, the elder can choose to continue to make decisions on his/her own.
A durable power of attorney is essential because if a person becomes incapacitated or incompetent without preparing this document, family and friends will not be allowed to make many important financial decisions, pay bills or make important healthcare decisions on behalf of their parent. Nor can they do crucial Medicaid planning. Anyone who wishes to undertake these tasks would have to go to court and be officially appointed the person's guardian.
There are several ways that a POA can written, each of which enables the person who is the power of attorney to makes various, and different levels of decisions. For example, the document might say the POA has the authority to pay bills or sell certain assets. Or POA could extend to all financial decisions, including selling the family home, managing all assets, and dealing with the I.R.S. as well.
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