Standard Power of Attorney

Many baby boomers are now facing a critical time in their lives. Not only do they have to face the health and well-being of their elderly parents, they are staring their own old age squarely in the face. Several weeks ago, the first “baby boomer baby” applied for a social security check! Many programs exist now to help keep the elderly living as independently as possible, however there are still difficult decisions to make in dealing with aging parents and with your own age issues.

Often, the most difficult tasks you face when discussing issues with your parents will revolve around money. The World War II generation almost universally played their finances close to their chests. In many cases the husbands were almost exclusively responsible for the household’s financial information. Many elderly widows now have to learn how to balance a checkbook or where all the insurance and bank account information is. This isn’t meant to be sexist, it is merely a reality of the situation that you may find yourself in. This is where the Power of Attorney can really help a situation.

With a Power of Attorney, you have the right to make certain decisions for your elderly parent(s). This can include simple day to day tasks such as paying bills, or even more important decisions around investment goals and even account closures. You are not obligated to do these things of course, but the option exists for you to lend a hand in case of need. This is the difference between guardianship and power of attorney. In a guardianship situation you become obligated to directly manage the situation for your parents. This can often lead to resentment and anger from both parties. Power of Attorney is more like a joint checking account.

The other benefit to a Power of Attorney is that it can be suspended at any time if the person who issued it wishes to do so. This means that if your parent becomes more self-sufficient and wants to revoke the power, it can be done with a simple request. Guardianship is a far more difficult position to reverse, and usually requires legal intervention. Additionally, Power of Attorney can be specifically limited to certain roles and functions by the document itself. If you need to craft a specific Power of Attorney document, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal counsel.

There is of course an entirely different Power of Attorney type, and that applies to medical decisions. Just because someone has the right to make your financial decisions does not mean they have any rights to make your medical ones. An entirely separate document should be created for this type of decision maker. Have one in place, and talk with everyone involved. Families should know who has the Power of Attorney. In an emergency situation, you don’t want everyone trying to make decisions that you have already entrusted someone to make. Discuss your wishes clearly, and document them so that both the doctors and your chosen representative are aware of them when making any decisions.

There obviously are many more facets to crafting a Power of Attorney document that you need to explore. The critical piece is that everyone needs to recognize their responsibilities in the process. As frustrated as you may be dealing with your own parents and their needs, imagine your children 20 years from now dealing with these same issues. Don’t repeat the same mistakes with your own children. Prepare your entire family now, and save everyone a lot of added grief in the future.