A parent or other family member may become physically disabled to the point that it is extremely difficult to travel in a car to take care of financial matters or other business. You may desire to assist her by becoming her attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney. As long as she is only physically disabled and not mentally impaired or incompetent, executing a power of attorney may be beneficial to everyone concerned.
Agree to assist your family member only at her request. Continual attempts to coerce her into signing the power of attorney may not be a good idea, especially if there are family members involved who feel you exerted undue influence upon her due to her disability for your own benefit. A power of attorney, especially a general power of attorney with a broad range of powers, should be willingly entered into by the principal after much forethought.
Contact or have the principal contact an attorney to prepare the power of attorney. Even though you may be able to prepare the document yourself, an attorney will be a credible witness as to the mental clarity of the disabled person at the time of signing. The attorney may choose to question the principal in a consultation to determine that she is not mentally disabled or impaired prior to the execution of the document.
Acquire and begin using the properly signed and notarized power of attorney. Provide copies, if required, to the principal’s bank or other financial institutions as well as anyone who may be called upon to rely on the power of attorney for future transactions.
Tips & Warnings
- If your disabled friend or family member is also mentally disabled or incompetent at the time of the request, any power of attorney signed by her may be ruled invalid in a court of law. A court order appointing you as guardian or conservator over her and her affairs may be required instead.
- As state laws vary regarding power of attorney requirements, seek the advice of attorney before entering into one.
References & Resources
- Senior Information and Assistance: Durable Power Of Attorney
- Elder Law Office of George F. Dickerman: Undue Influence
- Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost, PC: Estate Planning When Mental Capacity is in Question
- San Antonio Express News: Physical Disability Not Bar to Signing Legal Documents
- Legal Services for the Elderly: Power of Attorney
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Courting Trouble, The Document Granting 'Power of Attorney' Often Leads to Abuse
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images