Power of Attorney

Journey Through Life & Death

Okay, let me start with the caveat that I know next to nothing about the legal system. With that being said, take all of this with a hefty grain of salt. However, I feel like I can be of some assistance since I’ve recently had to navigate this process while trying to plan for my father’s future care. Trust me, you can’t get very far applying for long-term Medicaid or assisted living if you don’t have power of attorney.

First, you may ask “Isn’t being a health care proxy also having power of attorney?” The answer is yes and no. If your loved one is incapacitated and you are the health care proxy, you have control over medical decisions. That gives you medical power of attorney. BUT, you have no control over financial decisions. I’ve linked an article here that goes over the important differences between the two. One of the most common problems the article cites is parents wanting to equally divide up the responsibilities amongst children so they designate one as the health care proxy and the other as the financial power of attorney. This leads to one child choosing a specific senior living facility for their parent(s) and the other child having to release the funds to pay for it. You can see how this can lead to conflict. So if you’re a parent, don’t opt for this strategy and instead designate one person to be both.

Of course the form is different in all states so you will once again have to do some Googling but here is New York’s short form. This is one form not to mess around with so make sure you consult a lawyer if you have any questions. If you are someone’s POA, make sure you don’t sign any paperwork that makes you liable for paying off your loved one’s debt. Places will trick you so read the fine print. This form literally gives someone else to access to your finances. The good news is that as long as you’re of sound mind, you can revoke the POA if need be. You can also add different provisions in the optional section labeled “Modifications.” For example, according to Legal Zoom, you can make it a springing POA by inserting: “This POWER OF ATTORNEY shall become effective upon my subsequent incapacity,” otherwise the document is effective immediately. You can also add the manner in which your incapacity would be determined, such as by stating it requires certification of incapacity by two physicians who have examined you.

So I hope you find this helpful. The POA is definitely something to get squared away before anything bad happens.


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