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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tips & Warnings
If you must file a petition for guardianship or conservatorship, consider consulting with or hiring an attorney. It's a complicated legal process, and you might benefit from professional help. The court will most likely appoint an attorney, called a guardian ad litem, to represent your parent’s interests. The court will also require medical proof that your parent's disability prevents him from handling his own affairs.
If a judge decides that your parent does require a conservator or a guardian, he may appoint someone other than you, if he feels another individual is better suited for the job. However, close family members are usually given first consideration.
References & Resources
- F. Michael Friedman: Elder Law
- U.S. Department of State: Caring for Elderly Parents
- American Association of Trust, Estate and Elder Law Attorneys: Disability, Power of Attorney
- Legal Counsel for the Elderly: Disability – Maintaining Control by Planning Ahead
- Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services: Guardianship/Conservatorship (PDF)
- Louden County Clerk of the Circuit Court: Conservator and Guardian for an Incapacitated Adult
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