Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Final Thoughts on the Durable POA

We've been discussing the durable Power of Attorney over the last several posts. Let's wrap up with a few final suggestions.
  • Talk to your parent about a Durable POA now (or Living Will, Living Trust). Stress that this does not give you immediate control--but transfers control only when he gives you control, when he is incapacitated, or when trusted professionals give you control. Reassure him that you want the best care for him.
  • If your parent avoids the issue, try asking the people on your contact list to help. Perhaps one of them can persuade your parent to take this important step.
  • Tell your parent that you are arranging for your own Durable POA (and you should!) and would like to know what he wants, or to help him arrange his.
  • Be involved in drafting the POA. Share the tips from this Blog with your parent.
  • If your parent worries about putting too much control into one person's hands, suggest that two documents be prepared: a POA for financial affairs and a POA for medical affairs. You can be one agent; perhaps another sibling or relative can be the other. This separates the control and may make your parent feel more comfortable.

    Suggest that two agents be named if your parent feels that checks and balances are needed. Be careful of the wording. If the POA names you AND another, then BOTH people must sign documents or give verbal permission for procedures. This can unnecessarily delay care if either of you is unavailable. In my mother's document, my sister and I were named so that EITHER of us could act. We could work independently and quickly when a need arose, but were expected to consult each other.

Is the POA the Only Way To Become an Agent for Your Parent?.
There are other legal ways to become an agent for your parent.
  • You can add your name to your parent’s bank accounts and safe deposit box.
  • Your parent may have a Living Trust, which will cover the financial issues and help you avoid probate. Your parent may also have a Living Will, which will generally cover the health care issues. These are good arrangements to have, but can be complicated to set up. Your parents may balk at the involved process.
  • You can apply for legal guardianship before your parent is mentally incompetent. This is a long and distressing court process which your attorney will probably advise you to avoid. However, once your parent has been declared mentally incapacitated (according to state regulations), gaining legal guardianship is a fairly straightforward process. You may want to wait until incapacity is certain.
The DURABLE POA, signed and recorded while your parent is still mentally alert, is a straightforward document and versatile. It lets you take over when the need is the greatest and goes into effect only when the attorney and the doctors--and your parent, if able--agree. If your parent's condition improves, the POA is no longer in force and your parent takes over his affairs again.

What If My Parent Won't Do This?
Your parent is an adult. The truth is that if your parent is over 21 and mentally alert, she has the right to arrange her affairs in any way she wishes no matter how inconvenient and stubborn it may seem to you. Do what you can, be gently persistent, look for another opportunity to bring the subject up. Use this Blog, the Parentcare 101 Website, and the books in the Parentcare 101 Booklist to prepare yourself in other ways. As I did, you may get the opportunity when the first crisis hits.

Resources to Read More
Haman, Edward A. The Power of Attorney Handbook. Clearwater, FL: Sphinx Publishing, 2006.

Schumacher, Vickie. Understanding Living Trusts: How You Can Avoid Probate, Save Taxes and Enjoy Peace of Mind. 5th ed. Schumacher Publishing, 2003.

**You can request these articles from your public library:
Hochberg, R. Mark. Underpowered? Anything less than full power of attorney could keep your agent from doing the right thing if you’re incapacitated. Financial World, v 164, n20, p78, 9/26/95.

Jamison, Judith J. Are your powers in place? Best’s Review--Life-Health Insurance Edition, v 98, n11, p90, March 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment