Planning for the future requires many things. Working on a financial plan and retirement goals. Writing a will and designating an executor. Creating important legal documents, such as a power of attorney (POA).
As a family member, especially of an older adult, you might find yourself being called on to assume the role of POA. Before you accept, it’s important to understand what a POA is and the responsibilities it entails.
Understanding the Different Types of POA
A POA document designates someone to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to or unavailable. Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding a POA.
One persistent myth is that having a POA puts a senior at risk for losing their independence. This misconception might make a senior reluctant to set up this important document. The truth is there are several different types of POAs, including ones that give very narrow authority.
- General power of attorney: This is the type most people are familiar with. It awards a designee wide-ranging power, such as the authority to pay bills or hire and pay an in-home caregiver if needed.
- Limited or special power of attorney: If you need someone to act on your behalf for a specific or one-time purpose, consider this type of POA. An example of how it could be used is if you are out-of-state and want an adult child to be able to sell an asset for you.
- Healthcare power of attorney: By naming someone you trust to be a healthcare POA, you know that your medical wishes will be honored. Some refer to this type of POA as a “patient advocate,” as they ensure a person’s directives will be followed.
It’s also important to understand the difference between a durable and nondurable POA.
If a power of attorney is durable, it will be in effect even if you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. If the document does not explicitly spell out that the power is durable, it is nondurable and ends if you become incapacitated.
Accepting the role of POA requires more than an understanding of what the document is and isn’t. There are many other issues to consider.
Should You Accept a Senior Loved One’s Request to Be a POA?
A few things to think through before assuming the role of POA include:
- Proximity: Can you get to the senior’s home quickly in the event of an emergency? When decisions need to be made fast, this can be important. Some issues can be handled via phone, but others will require a POA to be there in person.
- Financial comfort: While you don’t have to be a financial planner or an accountant to be a POA, being comfortable managing finances helps. A few financial tasks a POA might be called on to assist with are paying household bills, buying and selling assets, and monitoring investments.
- Medical decisions: It isn’t always easy to make medical decisions on another person’s behalf, especially when it is a loved one. Be honest with yourself about your ability to make difficult, life-altering decisions.
- Family conflict: Childhood rivalries often return when a senior loved one’s health and well-being are declining. Everyone in the family might have a decision about what is “best” for the older adult. Difficult family dynamics can make the role of POA even more challenging. Will you be able to stand up to family pressure to make sure your loved one’s wishes are followed?
We know this is one of many issues adult children who are family caregivers face. Finding the answers you need is important. We created “Sunrise: Your Senior Care Resource” to help.
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