How to Choose a Power of Attorney

It’s never too early to begin planning for the future, and choosing a Power of Attorney is key to looking ahead responsibly. If you are getting ready to decide about a Power of Attorney for yourself, or if you are a family member waiting for a senior loved one to choose a Power of Attorney for themselves, the more you can understand the responsibility, the better. We’ve got you covered with these facts about what a Power of Attorney is, as well as how to choose a Power of Attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney, or POA, is a person who is authorized to act on behalf of someone else. A Power of Attorney can act in regard to healthcare matters or in regards to financial matters. In some cases, a person can designate two Powers of Attorney: one for healthcare decisions and one for financial decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a legal authorization, and while you can designate a POA without a lawyer, it is wise to involve a lawyer anyway. Look for someone who has experience working with family members and older adults.

Why does someone need a Power of Attorney?

Anyone who wants one can designate a Power of Attorney, not just older adults. However, it is common for seniors to include a POA designee or designees in their estate planning process. A Power of Attorney typically begins to make decisions on behalf of the senior if they are ever unable to make decisions themselves. Many times, a POA will step in if the older adult has cognitive decline or is mentally incapable of making sound decisions. This is typically decided by their physician.

A Power of Attorney can not only make medical and other healthcare decisions on behalf of the person, but they can also pay bills, manage benefits like Medicare or Medicaid, and cash checks.

How can someone choose a Power of Attorney?

When choosing a Power of Attorney, it is important to choose someone who will ensure your medical wishes are fulfilled, as well as someone who will care for your financial affairs. Some seniors choose to split the responsibility between their adult children, making one a healthcare POA and one a financial POA. This might be the right decision for you too, or it might not.

When you choose a Power of Attorney, it is best to have already discussed the responsibility with the potential POA. You don’t want to blindside someone with the responsibility. It is also important to make sure everyone else in the family understands the designation and what that entails. This can help to alleviate any misunderstandings or other family stress.

What happens if someone doesn’t have a Power of Attorney?

If someone does not have a Power of Attorney and becomes incapable of making decisions on their own, the matter will go to the court. In most cases, the court will appoint a guardian who will do their best to make good decisions on behalf of the senior, but who might not know anything about the senior prior to becoming their guardian. Family members can petition to become a POA designee, but this can take a long time. It’s best if a POA is already designated prior to any event that could leave the senior unable to make decisions. 

Future planning includes designating POAs, determining your advance directives, and making your wishes known. For some people, staying at home for as long as possible is an important part of their future plans. In those cases, the team at CaringGivers can provide assistance and support in order to enhance their independence at home.

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