Not everyone is ready to act as power of attorney (POA) for an elderly parent. There are many reasons adult children and others named as POA may need to decline, says Cheryl David, an elder law attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Becoming someone’s power of attorney is a monumental job,” says David. “The task should not be entered into without great thought.”
Learn about power of attorney responsibilities and alternate options. Then answer six questions to see if you’re ready for the role.
A power of attorney is a document, signed by a competent adult called “the principal,” that grants a trusted person the power to make decisions on their behalf if the principal is unable to. This trusted person is called “the agent.”
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It’s the agent’s job to make sure the principal — in this case their aging parent or loved one — is well cared for. Being named agent in your elderly loved one’s power of attorney is a serious responsibility.
Most seniors will execute multiple types of power of attorney as they age. Two of the most common are general and medical POAs.
Sometimes, taking on the responsibility of a power of attorney isn’t feasible. There are many reasons an adult child may not be prepared or able to act as power of attorney for an elderly parent.
Be honest, and let them know that if something happened to them today, you wouldn’t be in a position to do this.John Ross, elder law attorney
Consider these six factors, and ask yourself the following questions before accepting POA responsibilities:
If you aren’t ready for the role of POA, it’s best to have a direct conversation with your loved one about your trepidation, says John Ross, an elder law attorney in Texarkana, Texas. “Be honest, and let them know that if something happened to them today, you wouldn’t be in a position to do this.”
If you think you’ll be able to commit to the role, but you’re concerned your circumstances may change, suggest that your aging relative draft their power of attorney form with alternates. “I usually tell people to have as many alternates as people that you trust implicitly,” says Ross.
Experts recommend a backup plan because it’s “highly likely” that a relative won’t be able to carry out power of attorney duties when the time comes, according to David. “We build alternatives into a POA to cover the inevitability that someone may not be able to serve.”
If you and your siblings aren’t ready to take on power of attorney responsibilities, there are other options.
“Tell your loved one that you’re concerned about them enough to tell them you’re not the right person,” says Ross. Then help set up an alternative plan to make sure your loved one’s needs are met.
Claire Samuels is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She worked with senior living communities throughout the Midwest before pivoting to writing. She’s passionate about sharing ways of living well at any age.