Jun 7, 2023

Power of attorney for my senior parents in North Carolina

Manny Cominsky

If you or your senior parents live in North Carolina, it’s important to be familiar with the requirements under North Carolina law for creating and enforcing a power of attorney arrangement. Taking care of our senior parents as they age involves making important decisions regarding their healthcare and finances, which often involves signing a power of attorney document. Because each state has its own requirements for a valid power of attorney document, make sure you’re familiar with the requirements under North Carolina law by following our helpful guide below or reaching out to the Sunbound team for more information.

Power of attorney basics

Power of attorney is a legal arrangement that grants authority to an individual, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to act on behalf of another person, referred to as the principal. This relationship enables the agent to make healthcare and financial decisions on behalf of the principal, ensuring their well-being and best interests are protected. 

In the context of senior or elderly parents, power of attorney is often used when a senior parent can no longer handle their affairs completely by themself and requires the assistance of a trusted third party, often their adult child. Families will also sometimes draft power of attorney documents while their senior parent is fully capable of handling their own affairs, in order to make sure that should the parent be unable to do so in the future, that their wishes for how they want things handled are fully protected and documented. 

Types of North Carolina power of attorney

North Carolina recognizes several types of power of attorney, each serving different purposes. It's essential to understand these options to choose the most suitable type for your situation:

General Power of Attorney: Grants broad authority to the agent to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the principal. This can be useful when your senior parents require assistance with managing their day-to-day finances, paying bills, handling legal matters, or managing investments.

Limited Power of Attorney: Authorizes the agent to handle specific tasks or make decisions within a specified scope. For instance, you might need a limited power of attorney if your parents want you to handle the sale of their house while they are unable to manage the process themselves. This allows you to negotiate with potential buyers, sign contracts, and manage the entire real estate transaction.

Healthcare Power of Attorney: Empowers the agent to make healthcare-related decisions on behalf of the principal, particularly when they are unable to do so themselves. This can include decisions about medical treatments, surgeries, choosing healthcare providers, and making choices regarding long-term care options.

Durable Power of Attorney: Ensures the authority granted to the agent remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated or mentally incapable. This type of power of attorney is particularly important in situations where your senior parents may lose the capacity to make decisions independently due to conditions such as dementia or cognitive impairment.

Reasons for power of attorney

One of the great things about power of attorney is that it can be crafted to serve your senior parent’s exact needs, whether they need help with a discrete issue like a real estate transaction or more open-ended help such as managing their finances. While the exact purposes and scope of your power of attorney document will be determined based on your own parents’ needs, a few common use-cases for power of attorney are below:

Healthcare Decisions: If your senior parent becomes unable to make healthcare decisions due to illness or incapacitation, having a healthcare power of attorney in place allows you to consult with doctors, make treatment choices, and ensure their medical needs are met. For instance, you might need to make decisions about surgery options, rehabilitation programs, or end-of-life care on their behalf.

Financial Management: With a general power of attorney, you can assist your senior parents in managing their finances effectively. This may involve paying bills, managing bank accounts, dealing with insurance claims, or handling investments on their behalf.

Real Estate Transactions: Suppose your elderly parents want to sell their house but are unable to handle the process themselves. A limited power of attorney can empower you to represent them in real estate transactions. This includes negotiating with potential buyers, signing contracts, overseeing property inspections, and managing the entire sales process.

Government Benefits and Social Security: If your senior parents receive government benefits or Social Security, you can act on their behalf with a power of attorney. This allows you to communicate with government agencies, complete necessary paperwork, and ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Requirements for establishing power of attorney in North Carolina

Before drafting and signing a power of attorney document (or any legal document) it’s important to consult with a local North Carolina elder law attorney. Not only will a North Carolina attorney be most up to date with the requirements of North Carolina law, they will also likely have strategies and advice for how to make sure that everything your parents need is covered by the document you’re signing. This is particularly important where the grant of power of attorney is more general or open-ended in nature, and where it is particularly important to make sure that the power of attorney documents sufficiently spell out what your parents want you to handle on their behalf. 

Once, you’ve discussed power of attorney with a North Carolina attorney, the steps to creating and signing the power of attorney document will generally be as follows:

Choose a Trusted Agent

Select someone your senior parent trusts implicitly to act as their agent. This person should be responsible, reliable, and capable of making sound decisions on behalf of your senior parents. While for these reasons adult children are often the chosen agent, it could also make sense to have a close personal friend or colleague act as your senior parent’s power of attorney. 

Draft a Power of Attorney Document

While it isn’t necessary to have a North Carolina attorney draft your power of attorney document, for the reasons listed above it is highly desirable. If you don’t have an attorney assist with drafting the document, make sure to consult the statutory short form power of attorney form provided by the North Carolina government. 

The document should clearly outline the powers granted to the agent and include any specific instructions or limitations, including the types of transactions the agent is allowed to handle, when the grant of power of attorney becomes effective, and what occurs in case of incapacity on behalf of the principal. 

Sign the Document

The signature requirements for a North Carolina power of attorney will be determined based on the nature of the underlying grant of authority. If it is a power of attorney dealing with financial matters, the power of attorney must be signed by the principal (or by someone under their conscious direction), and the signature must be acknowledged by a notary public. If it is a healthcare power of attorney, it must also be signed by two witnesses in front of the notary public. 

Keep Copies and Inform Relevant Parties

Make multiple copies of the power of attorney document and distribute them to relevant parties such as healthcare providers, financial institutions, legal advisors, and any other individuals involved in your senior parent's care. It's crucial to notify these parties about the existence and authority of the power of attorney.

Revocation and Review

Remember that a power of attorney can be revoked or amended at any time, as long as the principal is of sound mind. It's advisable to review the document periodically to ensure it remains up to date with your parent's wishes.

Establishing a power of attorney relationship in North Carolina can provide peace of mind and support for those caring for their senior parents. By following the necessary steps and adhering to the requirements outlined by North Carolina law, you can ensure that you have the legal authority to make vital healthcare and financial decisions on behalf of your loved ones. Seeking guidance from a qualified attorney will help you navigate the process smoothly and protect the best interests of your elderly parents in all matters relating to their well-being.

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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