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What type of Power of Attorney can help my parent?

As you consider the types of help your ailing parent requires, you may want to consider more than one type of Power of Attorney (POA). For example, a Durable Power of Attorney that specifically grants authority over financial matters can allow someone else to take over management of their bank accounts. While a Durable Power of Attorney can give you the right to make financial decisions on your parent's behalf when they no longer can, a Medical Power of Attorney can give you the right to make medical decisions on their behalf. This can include what type of care they receive, but may also be limited by instructions provided by them in the Power of Attorney document, or in their Living Will or Advance Directive.

How do I get a Power of Attorney for my sick parent?

To get Power of Attorney for a sick parent, you must be named in either a specific Power of Attorney document, or in a Living Will or Advance Directive that names you as their medical decision maker. The requirements vary from state to state, however, generally, the signatures on these documents must be notarized or witnessed, and must be made while your parent has the ability to make these decisions.

To grant you Power of Attorney to make financial decisions, they must be of sound mind and properly sign a Durable Power of Attorney. To be of sound mind means they must understand what it truly means to sign over Power of Attorney, and the kind of decisions that may be made on their behalf.

To grant you authority to make medical decisions on their behalf, either a Medical Power of Attorney must be made, or you must be named as their medical decision maker (sometimes called a healthcare agent or proxy) in their Living Will or Advance Directive. 

If your parent is already mentally incapacitated, they may have already granted you (or another person) the necessary authority in a Living Will or Advance Directive. In this case, you may not need to take further steps to gain Power of Attorney if you are only seeking the ability to make medical decisions. You may, however, need to locate the Living Will. Individuals who are on top of their estate planning typically have a single place where important documents are filed (including other important documents such as their Will, or trusts). If your parent worked with an estate planning lawyer, or has siblings or close relatives, you may want to contact them if you cannot locate any estate planning documents.

What can be done for a parent who cannot legally sign a Power of Attorney document?

If your parent is unable to make decisions and has not already signed a Power of Attorney or other document that would authorize you to make decisions on their behalf, then your options are limited. Generally, to become authorized to make those decisions, states typically require a court order called a conservatorship, or guardianship. The requirements vary from state to state, and the process can sometimes be expedited if circumstances are dire. A conservatorship can grant you the right to make medical and financial decisions on your parent's behalf. 

It can help to speak with a lawyer about this process, although the court clerk's office at your county's probate court may be able to provide you with some resources on how to initiate conservatorship proceedings.

When should I get help?

If your parent is already incapacitated and there is no Living Will or Power of Attorney in place, it may be wise to get help from a lawyer as soon as possible. Things can get complicated when important financial or medical decisions need to be made, but your loved one did not grant anyone the authority to make those decisions on their behalf while they could. Waiting too long to set up a Power of Attorney or conservatorship can lead to unnecessary stress, costs, and potential financial losses. 

Once a diagnosis has been made, if your parent can still make their own decisions, it is important to start having discussions about what they want to happen. It is also important to make a plan to put those wishes onto the right legal documentation and make sure it gets signed according to your state’s legal requirements.

A Rocket Lawyer network attorney can help you sort through the steps needed to get proper legal authority in accordance with your state laws.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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