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If you’ve considered power of attorney (POA) for your older parents, you’re not alone. Though power of attorney is a common practice, drawing one up is not necessarily on everyone’s radar. It’s often in everyone’s best interest to learn more about POA. Deciding if it’s the right time for your family to consider one given the benefits and protections it offers older adults.
What is Power of Attorney for Seniors?
Put simply, a power of attorney is a document that allows the senior to appoint a person, usually an adult child, to manage their affairs in the event that the senior is unable to do so.
But there’s much more complexity to consider. There are many types of POA, and it’s crucial to identify which best suits the needs of your family. Check out LegalZoom for a great guide to the difference between general, special, healthcare, and durable POA’s. And Next Avenue provides a helpful roster of scenarios that can help you identify which type of POA best fits the situation, as well as information about the forms you’ll need and the process you’ll need to follow.
Before you get to the point of drawing up a power of attorney, you’ll want to get everyone on the same page, and that starts with a conversation.
Put everything in perspective
Many people are wary of signing a POA, and without the correct context, a request to sign one could feel like an attempt to take control. The key point to keep in mind is that a POA can be signed only by someone competent, and often only comes into effect if the signer is declared incompetent at a later time.
In this sense, it’s best to think of a POA as a backup plan, or insurance policy. It should be a document that delivers peace of mind. Remember, POAs are all about designated, trusted support. Having a conversation early allows everyone involved to reach a comfortable agreement.
Create a dialogue
Whether you bring this conversation up to a parent, or your parent brings it to you, make sure you come with an open mind. Be willing to ask and answer questions. This doesn't mean you have to have all of the answers, just be willing to listen and work together to find the best solution for everyone.
And speaking of answers…
Consult an expert
Most of us aren’t legal or financial experts, but there are always resources available to provide insight and guidance when it comes to the big decisions. For many families, bringing in informed insights from an unbiased third party proves invaluable. Any decisions ultimately remain personal choices, of course, but learning from an expert can make everyone more comfortable with the process.
Make time to talk sooner than later
POAs are designed to protect the interests and wishes of our loved ones. While it might seem premature to have a conversation about power of attorney, in reality it’s never too soon. And the truth is, open and honest conversation is made easier the more often we engage in it. Having a POA conversation today could support better communication tomorrow.