By Rustin Duncan, Attorney at King Law Offices, PPLC
It’s a fact of life that all children dread occurring. Mom and Dad age and become sick or otherwise unable to care for themselves. Many times this means that decisions regarding care for the elderly fall on the children. emotionally draining task. However, there are legal options available to families to prepare for this season of life to make things more clear. A Power of Attorney and a Living Will are two invaluable documents that ensure the wishes of the elderly are carried out regarding their care, even when they can no longer make the decisions.
While many parents lack a living will, sometimes called a health care power of attorney it’s the most basic and important step they can take. A living will allows someone to grant another the right to make decisions regarding their medical treatment and/or set out detailed instructions regarding how they want their care to be carried out. A living will also allows one to determine if they want to be put on a ventilator, feeding tube, etc. when they are unable to make decisions on their own. The living will allows a person to let their health care agent make that decision or state if they want all live saving care or no live saving care at all.
This document can be invaluable for the kids because it can take those tough decisions off of them and understand they are simply carrying out their parents’ wishes regarding their care.
Another important, simple and effective way to ease the pain and stress of an aging parent is with a Durable Power of Attorney. A durable power of attorney is a document a person executes that gives another person, usually the kids, specific legal powers to act on their behalf regarding money and property. The Durable Power of Attorney stays in effect even when the parent no longer has legal capacity to execute such documents.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows the child to act for the parent in many legal and financial activities. Examples include but are not limited to transferring money, filing tax returns, selling assets, accessing information on behalf of the parent, and access to the parent’s bank account to pay bills for the parent.
If the parent has not assigned these legal powers to anyone before becoming incompetent, the child or caregiver must petition the court for Guardianship to be able to make these decisions or act on behalf of the parent. While the court process is there it is expensive and can take time not to mention adding another burden to an already stressful and emotionally draining experience.
It is very important to have legal safeguards in place before a parent becomes ill or can no longer make decisions for themselves. Parents and children should talk about the wishes of the parents and have a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney executed to make sure things are clear. This can ease the minds of both parents and children and can allow families to more compassionately and effectively care for aging relatives.