A power of attorney gives you the legal oversight of your parent's financial and medical decisions. The laws concerning power of attorney are clearly defined in order to prevent elder fraud: in order to grant you power of attorney your parent must be of sound mind. There are different types of power of attorney but the most common for seniors is a durable power of attorney, which grants you the right to manage all of your parent's affairs should they become unable to do so. If your parent is suffering from dementia you will probably need to have the court appoint you conservator of their estate. Here are the basic steps you'll need to take in order to become your parents' power of attorney:
- Discuss with your parent what type of power of attorney you need and what the duties will be. For example, a durable power of attorney may cover finances, a business, medical choices, or all three.
- Consider whether you'll be the sole power of attorney or if you wish to add a third party. Sometimes a sibling or other person is helpful when major decisions must be made; in addition there can be one or more power of attorney for each aspect such as a family accountant covering the financials and an adult child in charge of medical decisions.
- Make sure you have a clear picture of your parent's needs and plans. As power of attorney you should be prepared to follow their wishes in all major decisions as much as possible.
- Decide whether you're going to do your own paperwork or whether an attorney should be consulted. Often using an attorney is the wisest choice because they will verify your parent was mentally competent if the question arises at a later date.
- Gather all documents, addresses, and account numbers that will be affected by the power of attorney, such as bank accounts, real estate holdings, and investment accounts. You'll also need a current copy of your parent's Will as well as any Trust documents.
- Fill out (or have your attorney fill out) the power of attorney forms. Depending on the state you live in the documents must be signed by two or more witnesses and possibly require a notary before they become legally binding.
- Deliver a copy of the power of attorney to each entity that you've been authorized to interact with. For example, banks, investment accounts, and utilities should all be notified as well as the county in which any real estate holdings may pay taxes.
Once you become power of attorney for your parent it is legally binding until revoked by your parent. Once they pass on it immediately becomes void and their Last Will takes effect.