Take care of your parents the way they took care of you. As they age, there are legal options you and your parents can take to ensure they are taken care of. You will hear them referred to as advanced directives.
Matters Regarding Health Care
A power of attorney is a tool that allows your elderly parents the peace of knowing that someone can make decisions on their behalf. A trusted person, i.d., you or someone else in your family, will have the power to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf.
If your elderly parents have a diminished mental capacity—or have received a diagnosis regarding that, you should consider getting a medical power of attorney. You will also see this referred to as a healthcare power of attorney. Regardless, this is another way for you to protect your parents.
When this document gets drafted, it is done so alongside healthcare professionals and doctors. With their help, your parents (or whoever is creating the healthcare power of attorney) will have someone to speak through. This way there is no ambiguity in terms of treatment preferences.
This is not the same thing as a living will. The confusion may stem from people referring to a living will as a health care directive. Ask your attorney, however, if you could combine your medical power of attorney with your living will to create an advanced healthcare directive.
A power of attorney is going to give you a broad range of authority. You can, essentially, make any decision your elderly parents normally would have made. This extends to financial issues.
More importantly, it will allow you the freedom to protect your parents as well. If your mother receives a pension, you can take those checks, sign them, and then deposit them into her account. If she has investments, you can move that money around. You can even file her taxes.
There is a tremendous amount of peace of mind that comes with this. When you see your aging parents, you will know their finances are in order, their life insurance plans are current, there is money set aside for them for long-term care if it becomes necessary.
On a final note, if your parents are not comfortable with you making all their decisions, they can limit the scope of your authority. Bring them to an attorney and ask them to explain the difference between a General Power of Attorney and a Limited Power of Attorney. And your parents can revoke the power of attorney at any time.
It is common for people to ask what the difference between a power of attorney and a guardianship is. The answer centers around when and how each one is obtained.
With a power of attorney, your parents are going to authorize you to act on their behalf in some specific capacity. However, this cannot be done if your parents have a limited level of competence, or they are suffering through a medical condition that impairs their mental faculties.
If your parents are not able to do this, you can pursue guardianship. Whereas a power of attorney could be executed through a notary, a guardianship will be obtained through Probate Court. You can be assigned as a guardian, and your parents will be the ward. When you are appointed as a guardian, you would have the same rights and duties for your parents as someone who is responsible for minors (children) does.
The Matus Law Group
Estate planning is about protecting your loved ones. Establishing a power of attorney is a very important step in the process. If you are ready to build your estate plan—and everyone should—contact The Matus Law Group to schedule a consultation.