If you are one of many adult children in Florida who try to help their aging parents, this is commendable. Whether you have both parents still living or only one, and whether your parent still lives independently at home or is transitioning to assisted living, there may be legal matters that need your attention. For instance, your parent may be considering signing a power of attorney for health or financial reasons.
There are several types of power of attorney. It is possible to incorporate more than one into an estate plan. Your parent may want you to have power of attorney or might want to designate someone else.
What exactly is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legally enforceable document. When you sign one, you are giving another person the authority to act on your behalf to make decisions. Such decisions might be about your health or your finances.
When you designate someone to have power of attorney over your health or finances, you are, in legal terms, the “principal.” The person who will act on your behalf is the “agent.”
Why ask someone else to make decisions for you?
If you or your aging parent becomes incapacitated, it would be helpful to have a power of attorney in place, which then becomes active so that the agent can step in and make decisions when you are unable to do so for yourself. In the case of a parent, perhaps a stroke occurred or dementia has set in.
Your parent might want or not want certain end-of-life care. As an agent who has medical power of attorney, you can discuss such issues with your parent’s health care team in order to meet his or her wishes.
A power of attorney can also be used for a healthy person
There are other situations where it is helpful to have a power of attorney in place. If the principal is a service member, for instance, and is deployed overseas, the designated agent may be able to sign legal documents and otherwise act as a proxy for him or her while the active duty is ongoing.
Discussing power of attorney is a central focus of elder law issues
If you are assisting your parent as he or she executes an estate plan, it is a good idea to discuss power of attorney issues. If your parent asks you to fulfill this role, it is imperative that you fully understand all of the responsibilities you will have when acting as the agent.
Having a power of attorney is often a comforting thought to an aging parent who may be worried about having serious health issues and not being in control of his or her medical care or finances.