What is a power of attorney? It’s a legal measure that names someone else as your “agent” if you cannot speak for yourself. If your mom had a stroke and was unable to communicate her wishes, she’d want someone she trusts to make medical and financial decisions for her. Here are five elder law tips to know about a power of attorney.
There Are Three Types of Powers of Attorney
There are several types of powers of attorney, but three of them are the most common. A medical power of attorney is used to make decisions on medical matters. Suppose your mom has a stroke and cannot speak or communicate. Your mom’s agent for medical decisions will take over until she’s well.
A financial power of attorney makes decisions related to your mom’s finances and assets. If your mom is in the hospital having had a stroke, someone needs to access her bank accounts and creditor information to make sure her bills get paid on time.
Finally, there’s a durable power of attorney that covers all legal decisions. It’s also in effect until it’s canceled or the person passes away. Other powers of attorney have to be renewed, or they end if a person becomes disabled or mentally incapacitated.
Naming Multiple People as Your Agent Isn’t Always a Good Idea
Your mom doesn’t want to upset any of her adult children, so she names them all as agents on her powers of attorney designations. This isn’t a good idea if there is any chance of discord among the siblings.
Suppose you and your brother don’t see eye-to-eye on end-of-life care. He may refuse to allow you to skip feeding tubes or ventilators, even if it’s what your mom would want. Personal feelings shouldn’t get in the way of your mom’s wishes, but they can happen.
You Can End a Power of Attorney
What happens if your mom has a falling out with the person she chose as a power of attorney? Once she’s named a power of attorney, she can change her mind. As long as she has the mental capacity to make legal decisions, she can change or end a power of attorney.
Your Role as an Agent Stops When Your Mom Passes Away
One of the biggest mistakes that agents given the power of attorney authority make is to keep using the power after death. This isn’t legal.
Suppose you get a call that your mom passed away. As her financial power of attorney, you go to the bank to use your powers to withdraw the money from her bank and pay her funeral expenses. You cannot do this.
Make sure you work with an attorney who specializes in elder law. Your mom also wants to have a will and name an executor to handle all matters regarding her estate after her death.
Don’t Rely on Free POA Online Forms
Make sure your mom works with an elder law specialist to designate her power of attorney agents. While there are many online forms you can access for free, they’re not valid in every state. Plus, some banks and hospitals may balk if the forms are not filled out correctly
The last thing you want is to expect to be able to use a power of attorney and find yourself fighting to use that power. Hire an elder law attorney and sit down with your mom to ensure she has expert advice and legal paperwork that cannot be argued.