The Importance of Powers of Attorney for Elderly Family Members
As our loved ones grow older, we may need to make decisions which will impact both their future, as well as our own. There are typically signs our parents need help, some of which we may overlook if we do not see them regularly. However, there are several aspects of their physical needs, as well as the legal requirements necessary to ensure we can care for them, which are often overlooked.
One of the most overlooked legal aspects of providing care for an elderly family member is a Power of Attorney. These legal documents are important whether our elderly family members are living in our homes, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing facility.
When someone is considering becoming a caregiver of an elderly family member, it is a good idea to consider meeting with an elder law attorney to learn more about these important documents.
Aging Populations Mean Legal Protections Are Necessary
The population in Louisiana is changing rapidly. Recent census data shows that nearly 17 percent of the population is over the age of 65. Aging could mean more families than ever will have to wrestle with the difficult decision of how to care for an aging family member.
One of the most important responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one is ensuring their physical and financial health. This can be done by having properly executed powers of attorney. These legal documents can help provide elderly family members peace of mind knowing their affairs are in order and that someone they know, and trust will be addressing their needs.
Elder care lawyers can help families secure powers of attorney before a loved one’s physical or mental capacity is diminished. This is important for both caregivers and for an elderly family member.
Different Types of Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney should be secured before an elderly family member begins to have noticeable health issues, or cognitive issues. This is important because otherwise, obtaining power of attorney could be difficult or impossible. Powers of attorney allow a caregiver to help manage their loved ones medical care and finances when they are unable to do so by themselves. Each document has a specific purpose.
Financial Power of Attorney
The financial power of attorney allows the person who is designated in the document to exert control over the finances of their elderly family members. This can help protect a loved one from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous parties who prey on seniors. This document allows a caregiver to ensure their loved ones bills are paid on time, or make financial decisions, including investment decisions, on their behalf when they are no longer able to do so for themselves.
Medical Power of Attorney
Medical decisions often are a part of a caregiver’s responsibilities to their elderly family members. Unless there is a medical power of attorney in place, physicians need not disclose medical information about a loved one nor may they accept directions from a family member about what procedures or care may be administered.
Generally, powers of attorney are executed as part of an overall estate plan. However, if an elderly family member has not established an estate plan, ensuring appointments of a trusted person to address medical and financial affairs is important.
When an elderly family member does not have an estate plan in place, taking the time to have a properly executed power of attorney in place can save time and disagreements among family members.
General Power of Attorney Versus Durable Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney are available in two classifications, general and durable. It is as important to understand the difference between these classifications as it is to understand what powers are granted under the types. In fact, it may be even more important.
A general power of attorney is valid for any actions taken under this type of document for as long as the person who granted the power is capable of making a decision on their own. In other words, a general power of attorney ceases to be valid in the event the maker is incapacitated. Incapacitation includes any condition which may render the maker physically or mentally unable to make decisions for themselves.
Durable powers of attorney are significantly different. A durable power of attorney allows the person designated by the maker to continue to act on their behalf regardless of their mental or physical capacity. In Louisiana, this is known as a mandate versus a durable power of attorney.
Powers of Attorney Can Prevent Confusion and Disagreements
One of the most important reasons for having a valid power of attorney executed for an elderly family member is to prevent confusion and family disagreements. Oftentimes, family members will disagree on how a loved ones assets and investments should be handled should they become incapacitated. Additionally, end of life medical care and other medical decisions can cause a great deal of friction between family members.
Having a person designated as power of attorney for an elderly family member can avoid these disputes. The person who issues the power of attorney not only can make it clear who shall be able to speak on their behalf, but also gives someone the authority to act on their behalf.
Designating a Power of Attorney
When someone has made the decision to work with an elderly family member to execute a power of attorney, the decision may not be an easy one. There are numerous things which must be considered. Some of the questions which may be necessary to address include:
- Should a family member be given the authority to act as a financial caretaker?
- Does the person understand their elderly family members’ medical wishes?
- Is the person willing to take on the responsibility of the powers of attorney?
Speaking with elderly family members about granting someone a power of attorney may not be an easy discussion, however, it is an important one. When your loved one is aging and you know that difficult decisions will have to be made in the weeks, months, and years to come, call 504-780-8232 or contact a lawyer who has the ability to understand the unique laws of Louisiana which deal with elder law.