You as the Agent
Generally, the motivation behind the execution of a power of attorney comes from the person granting the power to the agent. However, there is one common situation in the agent encourages the grantor to sign a power of attorney—children who want to care for their parents.
Many people today are facing the prospect of caring for their aging parents. Various ailments, such as a stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease can render an elderly person unable to handle his or her financial affairs or make intelligent, informed decisions regarding medical care.
If your parents have not become aware of the possible need for a power of attorney, it may be necessary for you to take the initiative and suggest it. Too often, by the time it becomes obvious that a power of attorney is needed, the elderly person is no longer mentally competent to make one.
Whether your parents will be willing to execute a power of attorney at your suggestion will depend on many things. These can include:
- your parents' attitude about powers of attorney and giving up sole control;
- their attitude about life-prolonging procedures and someone making health care decisions for them;
- your relationship with your parents; and
- whether they are willing to think about and discuss such issues.
It will be easiest if you have maintained a good and close relationship with your parents, and have earned their trust and confidence.
It is necessary to consider the possible reaction of other family members. In some families, they are close and on good terms, so these matters can be discussed and agreed upon. In other families, however, one sibling attempting to get the parents to sign powers of attorney can be viewed by the others as trying to get control of the money or deprive the others of their inheritance. In still other families, it is like pulling teeth to get any family members to share in the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.
If you have significant family challenges in this area, you should still consider a power of attorney. If necessary, you can file for guardianship. Even though there are many disadvantages to a guardianship proceeding, it would give you the added support of the court if a family member complains about the decisions you are making.
Questions to Ask Yourself
You also need to be prepared for the responsibility of serving as an agent. You should ask yourself these questions before accepting this responsibility:
- Will you be reasonably comfortable making the types of decisions that may become necessary?
- Are you confident in your ability to manage your parents' financial affairs?
- Are you emotionally equipped to deal with making tough, possibly life-and-death, medical treatment decisions?
- Are you aware of your responsibilities as an agent?