We’ve all read disturbing stories about elder abuse, and it may be these stories that contribute to a reluctance by many seniors to create a Power of Attorney. The Agent you name as your Power of Attorney will be responsible for determining where and how you live out your life. It should be someone with integrity, someone you trust to make good decisions about your healthcare and finances. The following story an example of how one daughter’s getting Power of Attorney was absolutely in the best interests of her father.
Meet Christine and her father, Dick
Christine and her husband, Bill, weary of long, rainy Seattle winters, retired in sunny Florida. Within two years, Christine’s parents, in their early 80s, moved to a nearby community. A pragmatic RN, Christine knew that she had just become her parents’ caretaker. She also knew she would get no help from her only sibling, a sister who lived in Chicago and hated Florida.
Within five years of their move, Christine’s mother died. Her father, Dick, stayed in their home, but his health was declining. He wasn’t taking his medications or eating properly, and the house was more than he could manage. Christine helped him sell his home and move into a very nice retirement community where he had his own unit, was surrounded by friendly people with numerous activities to keep him busy. Dick, however, remained in his unit, didn’t socialize or participate in any events and became increasingly isolated.
He began buying new cars, including a sexy convertible
Dick became obsessed with buying cars. Once he drove the car home, he’d find a reason to sell it. It was too big, too small, too expensive, guzzled too much gas, etc. Within a single year, he would easily have three-four car transactions, always with a different dealer. The irony was that he drove to WalMart once/week; Dick had no need for a car. He also began investing heavily in coupon sweepstakes, convinced that Publisher’s Clearinghouse was going to make him a millionaire.
The problem: Her father was running out of money
Between the car and the coupon fetishes, Dick was depleting his resources. Christine wanted to get a Power of Attorney to control her father’s spending, but he refused. It took Dick’s totaling his latest car, a sexy convertible, and ending up in the hospital, for him to finally relent.
As her father’s Power of Attorney, Christine was able to manage her father’s life
- Paid his bills, giving her father a weekly allowance and putting an end to his car purchases and restricting the number of sweepstakes he could enter.
- Arranged for a healthcare aide to visit three times/week to monitor his health and make sure he was taking his medications.
- Helped Dick update his Living Trust and Advanced Healthcare Directive while he was still mentally competent.
Power of Attorney makes decisions in the best interests of the Principal
The Agent under a Power of Attorney has a fiduciary obligation to make decisions that are in the best interests of the Principal. In most cases, the Agent is an adult child who has been named by a parent, but a Power of Attorney can be a trusted friend, financial adviser or a professional fiduciary. In this case, Christine was acting in the best interests of her father. Becoming legally empowered to manage his money meant that Dick would not have to move in with her and Bill. Call it enlightened self-interest, but Bill and Dick hated each other, so avoiding this situation was clearly in everyone’s best interest.
Powers of Attorney all terminate on death or incapacity
- The Agent can engage in legal business on behalf of the Principal until that person dies or is mentally incompetent to act on his/her own behalf. Once either of those events happens, the power of attorney is no longer valid.
- A Durable Power of Attorney can survive mental incapacity, but not death. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to continue to act on the Principal’s behalf even if the Principal is mentally incompetent.
Creating a Power of Attorney is part of our Living Trust package
We encourage everyone to think carefully about whom they appoint as their Agent. Being a Power of Attorney can become time-consuming, and it may require dealing with financial accounts, so your Power of Attorney should be comfortable managing financials and dealing with attorneys, accountants and government agencies such as social security. If you need to create or update your Trust, contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. Our dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.