Obtaining a power of attorney for parents
Power of attorney is a written legal document that grants a person legal authority to act and make decisions on someone else’s behalf in a number of affairs in the event of illness or an accident.
It can sometimes be difficult to have that initial conversation about power of attorney, particularly if your parents are in good health. The process for appointing power of attorney is a fairly straightforward one, but also requires thought, consideration and compassion. Your parents will almost certainly appreciate the importance of power of attorney, but it still might be a difficult step for them to take.
Lasting power of attorney can be given to anyone over the age of 18, and the donor can award it to one person or multiple people. If given to more than one person, your parent must decide if those people will make decisions separately, together, or a mixture of both. All attorneys appointed jointly must agree, or they will have their power revoked.
Different types of power of attorney
There are two types of lasting power of attorney:
• Health and welfare. This gives the attorney power over decisions surrounding things such as medical care, life-sustaining treatment, home care, daily routine, and personal care. A health and welfare attorney might also be responsible for spending the donor’s money on welfare-related products and services, including care, clothing, furnishings and decorations for the home. This power of attorney can only be used once the donor is unable to make their own decisions.
• Property and financial. This gives the attorney power over the donor’s finances, as well as responsibility for decisions regarding property. Examples of how property and financial power of attorney can be used include paying bills and rent, collecting pension, managing bank or building society accounts, managing rental properties, and selling the donor’s home. This power of attorney can be used immediately, with the donor’s permission.
Talk it through
Giving power of attorney is a significant but important decision to make, and it’s worth having a proper conversation with your parents and a lawyer to ensure you’re all on the same page regarding how and when you want power of attorney to be given and used. The procedure for applying for power of attorney is fairly straightforward, so hiring a lawyer isn’t essential, but it can provide both parties with added peace of mind. Documenting your rights is another excellent step you can take to make sure everyone’s comfortable about how the power of attorney will be executed.
How to get power of attorney for a parent with dementia or limited capabilities
When a parent receives a dementia diagnosis, the last thing either they or you might want to do is start thinking about giving power of attorney. However, acting as attorney for your parent will give them the reassurance that they and their estate will be properly looked after, and will relieve them of unnecessary stresses as they learn to live with their condition. It can often be tempting to wait as long as possible until giving power of attorney, but it’s advisable to act as swiftly as possible after the diagnosis.
In some instances, a dementia patient’s condition can take a long time to worsen, but it can also progress rapidly, and power of attorney must be given while the donor still has the mental capacity to knowingly and willingly consent to it. If you leave this process too late, you’ll need to appeal to a court of protection who will determine whether your loved one has the capacity to make their own decisions. This can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Page reviewed by Carole Kerton-Church, Regional Clinical Lead on November 23, 2021