Power of Attorney for Seniors: What It Is and Why You Need One
As people get older, the thought of getting their financial and legal matters in place is daunting. Yet, it’s important to do so in case they unexpectedly become seriously ill or pass away.
Knowing what plans and documents are in place is also important for caregivers as they may be called upon to locate the documents or handle issues as they arise.
Two documents that all seniors and their caregivers should become familiar with are the medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney, also known as POAs.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney for seniors is a legal document that gives a particular individual the power to act on the behalf of another person. The benefit of a POA is that you don’t have to worry about a total stranger making decisions about your medical care or finances. With a POA in place, you get to decide who will make decisions for you while you are still healthy and well.
A durable power of attorney remains in effect as long as someone is not able to make decisions on their own.
Who Needs a Power of Attorney?
Anyone over the age of 18 can get a POA, and attorneys recommend they do so. Why? Because once you become a legal adult, the only person who can speak with your doctors or make decisions for you is yourself – unless you can show proof of a POA.
Young adults don’t commonly get a POA because health emergencies are more likely to occur when people are older. Most attorneys and medical professionals strongly recommend getting a power of attorney for seniors.
Every state sets its own POA laws. In some places, POAs only go into effect when someone is incapacitated. In other states, POAs are effective immediately. Be sure you understand the laws in your state before signing a POA.
Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney
When considering arranging for a power of attorney, it’s important to get one for the intended purpose. You can get a power of attorney for yourself or your business, and you can get one to manage your financial matters or medical decisions.
Most seniors opt to get two separate POA documents – one for financial matters and one for healthcare. What is the most recommended type of power of attorney?
These forms are designed differently as they serve different purposes. Each document makes clear what duties and responsibilities the senior’s representative has, and only both parties have access to it until it’s needed.
Another reason the forms are separate is because of confidentiality reasons. Workers at the bank need financial information if someone is incapacitated, but they don’t need to know about anything medical and vice versa.
Overall, a POA simplifies everything when tough financial or medical decisions need to be made, and it’s important to have both forms in place.
POAs do carry some limitations. They don’t allow the representative to change someone’s will, make decisions after their passing, change the POA, or transfer it to someone else. Only the person needing the POA or the courts have that authority.
What Happens If There Is No Power of Attorney?
What happens if you are a caregiver and the person you are caring for doesn’t have a durable power of attorney in place? You would have to file another legal document with the court to get authority from the court to make medical or financial decisions for someone.
Caring for someone who cannot live independently carries enough burden of its own. Not having a POA in place unnecessarily complicates matters causing even more stress and exhaustion for caregivers.
Moreover, there’s not always time to get things resolved in court when someone is experiencing a financial crisis or medical emergency. When time runs out, a complete stranger will make most of the decisions whether loved ones agree with it or not.
Everyone will have more peace of mind knowing that the senior’s wishes can be carried out as they planned.
Where to Get a Power of Attorney
There are two ways to get a power of attorney form. The first way is to use a do-it-yourself option on the internet. The following links are resources where you can get POA forms:
Online legal forms are more cost-effective than using a lawyer, however, there are some drawbacks to using them. If you miss something legal, it could cause major problems. An experienced lawyer will be sure the documents abide by state laws and cover everything.
It’s wise for seniors to plan ahead and get their POA forms in order before they need them. It’s just as important for younger people to have POAs in place because you never know when they may need them.
If you have any other questions about POAs, the experts at Medi-Cure Home Care are happy to help, so call us at 770-755-1394.