June 4, 2021
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How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents Easily

Like any other loving family member, Phyllis and her family would love some timely advice with regards to how to get power of attorney for elderly parents without too much effort. One of the primary legal tools family caregivers need to manage an elderly parent's finances, or health care is a POA (Power of Attorney) document. Without it, the caregiver lacks the necessary authority to care for important decisions to do with the elderly person they care for.    

To get power of attorney for elderly parents requires them to give authorization in front of a notary. In the case of Guardianship, you would need probate court approval, and it is a requirement to prove through medical statements that your elderly parents are incapable of caring for themselves. Phyllis and her family are keen to learn more about the health care power of attorney and how to easily obtain the necessary documents, making it possible to care for the needs of her mother-in-law.  

How to Obtain Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents: 5 Easy Steps  

The saying make hay while the sun shines could not be truer in the case of getting power of attorney sooner than later.   

5 easy steps to make this happen:  

  1. Explain to your elderly parent what power of attorney is while they are still alert and oriented. They need to agree to do it prior to a significant decline in cognition.
  2. Make a point of getting it down in writing by having a signed and written authorization. A notary will be necessary. Also, be sure to check if witnesses are required.  
  3. State the relevant parties clearly where the elderly parent is the principal, and you would be the agent who is about to act on their behalf once the POA document is signed.  
  4. Ensure the powers to make decisions for your elderly loved one is only effective once they can no longer make their own decisions.  
  5. Be sure to mention when a power of attorney will become effective and how long it should last.   

What is Power of Attorney?  

Couple sitting with Attorney to draw up healthcare power of attorney document.

Power of attorney generally means the person or elderly individual in need of such services would authorize one of their friends or family members to manage their finances and conduct business on their behalf. This document is also known as a durable financial power of attorney. A health care POA is one of 3 advance directives. A living will and health care proxy are the other two.

Essentially, there are four types of power of attorney legal documents:  

  1. General power of attorney – The individual or family member who received authorization to act on their senior person's behalf. This all them to make decisions dealing with general day to day affairs. They would be put in charge of any financial or business transactions, which include handling business interests and the settling of claims.  
  2. Special power of attorney – This document is often used in cases where the elderly person cannot handle certain affairs as a result of other commitments or due to health issues.   
  3. Health care power of attorney – The elderly person would grant authority to a caregiver to handle medical decisions on their behalf, especially when they cannot make such decisions for themselves.  
  4. A durable power of attorney – Individuals who become unable to make their own decisions to a decline in cognition, often due to an accident or illness. However, this document can also be prepared as a preventative measure if an elderly person becomes mentally incapable in the future.   

This brings us to another question often asked.  

How long does a power of attorney document last?

As a whole, a power of attorney document is effective for the person's lifetime unless the person concerned chooses to revoke it. In most cases, though, the person who has been given power of attorney will be responsible for decisions until the elderly person passes away.

What Rights Do You Have as a Representative?  

Phyllis and her family realized the importance of obtaining a power of attorney to comfortably take care of her mother in law's medical needs and finances. But, to do this correctly without any hiccups along the way, she needed to be sure about the power of attorney rights and responsibilities.   

The attorney she approached to ease her mind gave Phyllis the low down of what the principal or her mom in law's rights are and what her rights would be as a representative.   

What rights are not transferred to the representative who was given power of attorney?  

  • Principal rights: The elderly individual may grant either limited powers or broad powers and even has the right to restrict powers at the time when they set up the relevant documents. As mentioned already, they can also revoke the POA at any time unless they are deemed unable to make their own decisions due to a reduced cognitive ability. A medical doctor is required to make that determination.  
  • Agent rights: Even though the representative has been chosen to take responsibility by acting on behalf of an elderly individual through the POA granted, you have the right to resign and let the principal know in writing about their intentions. As the representative, you can sign loan agreements on behalf of the person who allowed you to act on their behalf.   

The POA does not give the representative the right to:  

  • Utilize the individual or elderly person's monies for their own benefit.  
  • Make changes to their will.  
  • Decide what must happen to the person's estate once they pass.  
  • Appoint another individual to act as the representative or to serve as a replacement.  

You may have heard of Guardianship and wondered how it compares to the power of attorney. Isn't it the same thing? Let's have a look.  

The difference between power of attorney vs. Guardianship  

Court appointed guardianship vs. self selected power of attorney.

To put it in a nutshell, the key difference between POA and Guardianship is that the person concerned has the freedom to choose who they want to have power of attorney over their finances or health care and the actions that would be allowed. A guardianship, on the other hand is a court-appointed position.  

Phyllis thought about it long and hard and did the necessary research to calm her mind and be sure she will choose the right option. In our humble opinion, the best choice with a lot less red tape involved would be settling for power of attorney for elderly parents.   

The question as to which one (power of attorney vs. Guardianship) is better can be summed up as follow:  

If your elderly parent is fully compos mentis (of sound mind) and agreeable to the idea, then your most logical step would be to get them to sign a power of attorney. This takes the form of a document to be signed or voluntarily by a competent person who understands what it would mean for them. In this regard, Phyllis' mother-in-law had no trouble signing the POA as her daughter-in-law demonstrated her trustworthiness as a fully capable and responsible individual.   

If a parent is mentally incapable of deciding whether or not they should allow you to act on their behalf by means of a POA, a guardianship or conservatorship order may be necessary.   

Does this mean that a person who is not of sound mind, for example a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia, must automatically settle for Guardianship? Or is power of attorney still an option for them?

How to get power of attorney for elderly parents with dementia  

Once established that an elderly parent is in the early stages of dementia, it may still be possible to get what they would call a durable power of attorney since they have lost little mental capacity at this stage.   

As they still have a significant amount of mental capacity, they can still make informed decisions regarding their healthcare and finances. As time goes by, they may lose their ability to make sound decisions related to complex issues regarding their health, for which a power of attorney health care would come in very handy. This simpler decisions still are well within their means for quite some time.

In this case, the person concerned can authorize a lasting power of attorney, which should be done with a lawyer to guarantee their best interests.   


Aging can be a bittersweet experience. Watching our loved ones lose some of their independence and require assistance for day to day activities can be difficult. Remember the enjoyment of previous quality time and make the most of your future interactions. Y'all can still experience many wonderful years together. Getting a power of attorney for elderly parents is a wise decision. It will ensure the transition into a later stage of their life where they can no longer make their own decisions is as smooth as possible. Some uncomfortable conversations and a little preparation will go a long way.

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That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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