It is very common for family members to ignore or dismiss the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s as simply a part of aging. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to obtain a Power of Attorney (POA) if the disease has progressed.
If your elderly parent wrote a living will granting you (or someone) a Durable Power of Attorney, then it’s well taken care of – but if they did not and have now been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, then any legal documents that they sign are invalid.
So then, how do you now get a Power of Attorney for your parent?
In order to obtain legal rights over your parents’ financial and medical matters you will need to see a judge to obtain a conservatorship and/or guardianship. This isn’t the same as a full Power of Attorney, but it will give you the right to decide on financial and medical matters on behalf of your aging parent.
It’s recommended that you speak with an elder law attorney to get this matter handled correctly. But please note that this can be a costly and time-consuming process.
That is why we always recommend that older adults write up a living will with a Power of Attorney as soon as possible and while they are still of sound mind.
Also, be aware that many attorneys automatically draw up revocable POA’s for their clients.
However, if you have a parent with dementia, you DO NOT want them to be able to revoke your power of attorney in a moment of misunderstanding or fear. Be certain that your lawyer only creates an irrevocable POA!
When Should Your Aging Parent Set Up Their Power Of Attorney?
The truth is that all parents should speak with an attorney and have legal documents, such as a Will, a Living Will and a POA written up as soon as they are parents. In most states, anyone 18 years and older can have these documents created.
Some parents take the extra step to make sure that they have these documents written while they are pregnant, just to assure that if anything happens – their child will be taken care of.
This can easily save the family a good amount of money and precious time if these legal matters are all taken care of.
Why Do I Need A Power of Attorney?
My mother was very diligent about her legal matters (and everything else actually) so as a family, we were very fortunate. You see – because she had already written her POA – we were able to manage her medical needs with her and then for her as she became too ill to do so for herself.
When she passed away, the POA made it extremely easy for us to sell her home and her car and access her financial accounts, etc.
Without that Power of Attorney and Living Will – all of these issues that we had to take care of after she died would have taken much longer and been more difficult.
The Steps To Take If Your Elderly Parent Does Not Have A Power Of Attorney
So, if your parent has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s or any other illness that has left them cognitively incapacitated and they have not written a Power of Attorney – you can follow these steps below.
Step One – Speak with an elder law attorney about what is needed to be done so that you can take over your parents’ financial and/or medical matters for them.
Step Two – The attorney may recommend either a conservatorship and/or a guardianship.
Conservatorship – is used to give someone full control over another person’s financial matters.
Guardianship – is used to give someone full control over their care.
As I mentioned earlier – obtaining these can be expensive and time consuming.
So we highly recommend that you go through our Legal Checklist for Aging Parents. It will give you all the information you need to make sure that all your legal documents are properly arranged. This will help your family tremendously.