You would be surprised how many times we get that call in our office. A Daughter or son calls and wants us to prepare a “simple” power of attorney for the parent. But it doesn’t always work out. Before anything else we ask, “Why is your parent not calling?” The answer to that question will tell us so much. Many times it is just that the parent asked their child to handle things or the parent has impairments that limit phone activity.
But, there are times when the child tells us, “My Dad does not know what is going on.” Maybe the parent has advanced dementia or had a major stroke or some other health event that rendered the parent unable to understand what is needed. The parent may be laying in a hospital unable to respond at all. Times like these we are very limited in what we can do. For Dad to name someone on a power of attorney Dad needs to understand what he is signing. Another person cannot execute the document for Dad. To act, a family member might need to seek guardianship which is both expensive and invasive of one’s privacy.
Families have called for help because the parent never executed a power of attorney or the document is too old (and laws have changed) or the necessary language to be effective for specific activities is missing. Some have told us that Dad completed a power of attorney at the bank, thinking it was sufficient, only to learn that the authority was limited to banking in that facility only. Other times, people produce a form power of attorney they bought in an office supply store which turned out to be insufficient for their need.
Life is uncertain at best and we never know if or when someone could lose capacity. For some it might be a gradual happening with plenty of notice (if the person heeds the warnings) while for others it could be a one-time incident like a stroke or accident. This is why every adult, regardless of health status, should consider having a power of attorney prepared by a qualified and knowledgeable attorney. While elder law attorneys specialize in matters concerning elders and disabled individuals, we are qualified, particularly with powers of attorney, to help people of any age.