What Is Power Of Attorney And Why Every Senior Needs To Know

Some people live well into their 90’s with all their mental sharpness intact and die a peaceful death in their sleep. They have all of their loose ends tidily tied up so none of their family members need to be burdened.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most people. Mainly, there comes a time when dementia might set in, or a fall puts somebody’s health at risk and end of life concerns need to be discussed. Often, difficult decisions need to be made by loved ones since the senior didn’t give power of attorney to anybody.

This can all be avoided by preparing ahead of time by setting up a durable power of attorney.

In this article, we will discuss what the types of power attorney are and why you need one as you enter your retirement.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that delegates somebody to act on your behalf. The delegate then has all the decision making power that you had before you were incapacitated. 

It can mean making financial decisions like moving savings into a money market account. It can also mean making health decisions like whether to get a surgery or to buy Medicare Supplement insurance. 

Durable Power Of Attorney

There are ordinary and non durable power of attorney, but you don’t want those types as they become void if you become incapacitated. 

Those are fine for decisions like finding a caregiver or making other types of decisions especially if you can’t sign documents but are otherwise mentally fit. They can advocate for you and be involved when a doctor is giving medical advice, but once you are suffering from dementia or in a coma then your delegate can’t do anything.

A durable power of attorney is the type that is needed as it is used primarily in case you become incapacitated. It is called this because the document is durable. It doesn’t become void.

The peace of mind that comes from having this done ahead of time is something that can reduce a lot of stress and anxiety. You may feel fit as a fiddle and decide that it can wait, but there is no reason to wait at all. 

Falls happen, accidents happen and sometimes an illness can come on all of a sudden. Then, the burden of what to do gets put on the shoulders of your loved ones who don’t have much power to handle your case.

What happens if there is no power of attorney?

In many cases, the state will designate a person to handle making sensitive decisions. Usually, this is a family member like a spouse. If there is no spouse then it goes to the adult children.

Well, what if the children can’t agree on the decision? Suppose it is a risky surgery, or a decision to discontinue treatment. Those are not easy decisions to make. If siblings or family members can’t agree, then it’s possible that a bad decision can be made, or that a rift tears the family apart.

In the case of no relatives, the state may have to make the decision for you. If you recover and don’t like the decision that was made, then there is not much you can do about it.

When durable power of attorney is made, then the family and friends have to abide by the decision as that delegate is acting as you supposedly would make the decision yourself.

If it’s a financial decision that gets made without a POA, then the courts are likely to get involved and this is expensive and time consuming. Probate courts may designate a guardian and once again, this may cause problems among other family members if the decision proves unpopular.

How to find the right person for a POA

A durable power of attorney doesn’t have to be given to a family member. It can be a friend, clergy or even a lawyer. What is important above all is trust. You need to make sure that you know the decisions will be made in your best interest.

The person you pick should have a keen attention to detail and be able to understand complex problems. If they understand finances and medical problems then that is a bonus. If they don’t understand those things already, then a willingness to learn and to weigh the pros of cons of each situtation is helpful.