How to Become the Power of Attorney for a Disabled Elderly Parent

By Beverly Bird

Only two persons or entities can grant you the right to act on your disabled parent’s behalf: your parent or the court. The principal, the person who grants a power of attorney, does so voluntarily. He states within the document that he is, of his own free will, asking his agent, or attorney-in-fact, to act for him in certain matters. If your parent refuses to do this, however, you might have other options. You can ask the court to appoint you as his conservator or guardian instead.

Only two persons or entities can grant you the right to act on your disabled parent’s behalf: your parent or the court. The principal, the person who grants a power of attorney, does so voluntarily. He states within the document that he is, of his own free will, asking his agent, or attorney-in-fact, to act for him in certain matters. If your parent refuses to do this, however, you might have other options. You can ask the court to appoint you as his conservator or guardian instead.

Step 1

Talk with your parent if his disability is only physical, and he is still mentally competent. Express your concern over his inability to get around and take care of his own affairs. Offer him the option of allowing you to act for him through a power of attorney. Expect some resistance; no one likes to give up control of his own life and personal business, and he may not be eager to share the details of his financial situation with you.

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Step 2

Suggest that you and your parent draw up the power of attorney together, or, if possible, have him accompany you to an attorney’s office to have one written professionally. Both options will allow him a clear understanding of what he is authorizing you to do. If you choose to write your own document, you can download one from any legal website and discuss each entry and option with him. If you take him to see a lawyer, the lawyer can also help allay any fears or concerns your parent has.

Step 3

Deliver copies of the completed POA to any entities with whom your parent has authorized you to interact. For banking institutions, make an appointment ahead of time and plan to take your parent with you, if possible. Some banks have their own procedures and formats for POAs, so you may need to have your parent sign additional documents to deal with them. If you’ll be dealing with real estate on your parent’s behalf, file a copy of the POA with the recorder in the county where the property is located.

Step 4

File a petition for conservatorship or guardianship of your parent, if he refuses to grant you power of attorney to manage his affairs. If you genuinely fear for his ability to do so himself, you'll have to ask the court to intercede. As conservator, you would only take care of his financial affairs. As his guardian, you would also be responsible for details of his daily care.

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What Is the Difference Between Power of Attorney & Guardianship?

References

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What Is Financial Power of Attorney Abuse?

When you, as a principal, create a power of attorney, you give your agent a significant amount of authority to conduct transactions on your behalf. Since your agent has so much authority, it may be easy for him to abuse the power of attorney to act in his own best interests rather than yours. However, state laws can provide protection against abuses, and you can incorporate safeguards into your power of attorney to help deter abuse.

How to Write a Power of Attorney

Although legal supply stores and websites offer power-of-attorney forms, a generic form might not suit your personal needs. A power of attorney can be almost anything you want it to be, so there’s no need to limit yourself to purchased, prewritten forms. You can write your own if you follow some basic guidelines. You might benefit from having an attorney review it after you’ve completed it, however, to make sure it adequately covers you under the law.

Can You Give a Power of Attorney to Someone to File for a Divorce?

Powers of attorney are not one-size-fits-all documents. Their terms are subject to the wishes of the person granting the power, as well as individual state laws. This is especially true when it comes to the highly sensitive and personal matter of divorce. Technically, someone holding power of attorney for you can initiate a lawsuit on your behalf, but states take a dim view of this if the lawsuit is a petition for divorce.

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