What to Do if an Ailing Family Member Does Not Have Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document, which empowers a named individual to act on behalf of the grantor. It can be specific, limited to one task such as selling a farm. It can be broad, to handle all of my personal and business affairs. It is particularly useful between persons in a close relationship when one of them become ill and unable to perform essential functions.

Powers of attorney for health care and durable powers of attorney are tools for carrying out the wishes of a person who, because of illness or incapacity, can no longer make decisions independently.

A durable power of attorney is not a living will, which directs everyone to follow the wishes of the maker. For example, a living will can direct health care providers to restrict treatments in the event of a catastrophic event. A living will is not an authorization to a named person; rather it is a set of instructions to limit or advise everyone.

The power of attorney is not a will because the power expires upon the death of the grantor. It is an instrument to empower a named individual to act as if the grantor were present. The power enables the attorney-in-fact to do things that the grantor could do. In healthcare settings, this includes medical decisions such as procedures and suspension of care.

It is essential to discuss the power of attorney while the parties are in good health and sound mental state. The legal requirement for granting a power of attorney is that the grantor be in sound mental state. They must know what they are doing when they give powers to act on their behalf.

A durable power of attorney must state that it empowers the attorney-in-fact to act in the event of illness and incapacity. The purpose of a power of attorney is to act as if the grantor were there personally. It is essential to that goal that the grantor has a sound mind and a clear idea of what he or she intends.

A typical situation occurs in many families, an elderly parent, or an ill spouse has no power of attorney. While discussing it is better while everyone is in reasonable health and can make calm reflective decisions, there are occasions when events overtake that opportunity. It is perhaps frightening to some and unsettling to most people, to consider the possibility that an illness can rob them of the ability to move about, make decisions, and perform necessary acts.

Perhaps the best approach is a truth. Age and illness can affect anyone, and a simple act of preparedness will ensure proper handling of personal and business matters. It is also useful to discuss that a power of attorney is revocable at will and can be changed at any time.

A power of attorney is an essential part of planning for estates and health emergencies. In a period of illness, someone must perform many critical tasks and make critical decisions. The absence of a power to act can cause losses and make day-to-day matters difficult. It is a prudent step to take.

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