Jan 9, 2023

How do I get power of attorney for my senior parent?

Manny Cominsky

If you are helping pay for, or otherwise overseeing the payment of, your senior parents senior living expenses, you are likely already familiar with the concept of power of attorney. And if you are planning on being the individual who is either paying for or organizing your parent’s retirement expenses, particularly when it comes to their monthly senior living payments, you are likely going to have to go through the power of attorney process. Because granting power of attorney to an adult child can be a huge step in a senior’s life, and entail a lot of responsibility being granted to the child, it is important to fully consider the implications of signing a power of attorney, as well as the best ways to have the discussion surrounding granting power of attorney in a way that fully respects your parent’s autonomy and works best for your family. 

Before signing a power of attorney it is best to speak with a legal professional who can help you address all of these questions. In the meantime, to get an understanding of all the steps involved with granting a power of attorney read our guide below. 

What is power of attorney?

As we’ve covered elsewhere on the blog, power of attorney is a legal document that gives one individual the authority to act on the behalf of another individual. Power of attorney is a very broad concept, and can cover any number of events and circumstances. In some cases a grant of power of attorney is limited in either time or scope, such as when someone grants someone else power of attorney to handle their affairs when they are unavailable due to something like travel or surgery, or when someone is given power of attorney to do a discrete task like selling a piece of property like a car or house. In other cases, power of attorney is more general and all-encompassing, and allows for an individual to make a wide-range of decisions for another from paying their weekly bills to making long-term care decisions. Often times older adults will sign one of these more general power of attorney documents to allow their adult child to handle their affairs when they are unable or unwilling to do so for themselves. 

How do you get power of attorney?

If you or a loved one are thinking about a power of attorney, an important early step is talking to a lawyer with experience in an area like elder law or who has experience handling power of attorney or other related matters. While power of attorney largely works the same across the country, states often have their own wrinkles in their laws and so it’s always important to speak to a local expert. That being said, the formal steps involved in getting power of attorney are generally rather simple and generally just involve signing one (or potentially more) documents.

The first step in creating a power of attorney is to decide on the scope of affairs you want the other individual to be handling on your behalf, known as your agent or your proxy. Your agent, or multiple agents if you decide that to be the case, will be the individual that you are signing over full legal authority for to handle whatever your power of attorney document encompasses. Therefore, it’s important to really think through the individual you are naming as your agent in your power of attorney. Make sure that you trust this person’s judgment and believe that they will be able to act in your best interests. Also make sure that they are in a good place in their life to take on this responsibility - a very smart person with too-busy of a schedule might not be the perfect agent after all. 

Make sure to consult a lawyer before signing a power of attorney document to make sure the document is valid and covers everything you intend.

Along with deciding who will be handling your affairs, it’s necessary to determine what things your power of attorney is going to cover. Sometimes, such as if you’re selling a car or a piece of property located far from where your senior parent lives, the scope of the power of attorney document may be fairly limited and specific. On the other hand, your senior parent may need more general help with running and organizing their life, particularly if they have health issues that make caring for themselves difficult. In such a case, power of attorney may include things like paying monthly senior living expenses and making decisions about levels and types of care.

Power of attorney documents

Once you’ve decided who will be your agent and what decisions they will be making on your behalf, the next step is formalizing this agreement in a signed writing. It is particularly important to consult an attorney at this stage of the process as they are experienced in drafting these types of documents, and will be able to help make sure that the document most accurately reflects your wishes and desires. Along with making sure that the document accurately reflects the main details of the power of attorney agreement - namely who your agent is, what their responsibilities are, the scope of the power of attorney grant, and what events trigger the power of attorney document - an experienced attorney will make sure that your power of attorney document also includes any necessary supporting documentation like a physician’s directive to be left for your medical providers or a HIPAA authorization to allow your agent to access otherwise confidential medical information protected by HIPAA.

Once your power of attorney documents have been drafted and signed, it’s important for you and your agent, as well as other important individuals such as your attorney or doctors, to keep signed copies of the documents. If your adult child is going to be making medical decisions on your behalf, it will be important for your doctors and other medical providers to know to make sure that they are providing all the relevant information to the individual with decision-making authority. Along with keeping physical copies of these documents, make sure to keep them updated should anything change such as if you have a major change in your health or living situation.

To learn more about how Sunbound can help make senior living more affordable for you or your loved one, send us an email at info@sunboundhomes.com or request more information on Sunbound. Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living and is on a mission to make senior living affordable for everyone.

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