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Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney (POA)

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We have within the past year gone through the POA question and implemented such powers with my Mother ........I have PD, my Mother does not....she suffers dementia as a result of strokes and aging.

Two documents exist:

  • Durable power of attorney......covers financial affairs, etc.
  • Medical power of attorney.....covers healthcare decisions
  • The requirements to establish are simply:

    1. The patient signs permission for a designated person/persons to act in his/her behalf.
    2. The patient must be cognizant of what he/she is signing......and this is determined by the attorney and witness to the signature..
    These are true in Indiana and Minnesota..........I do not know that this is true in other states.....

    IF THE PATIENT is NOT COGNIZANT of what the power of attorney (POA) establishes in a legal sense............then THE COURT will appoint a person to be responsible for payment of bills, etc. until the proper investigation is completed by the state to give permission for a POA to be assigned........

    Let me better explain this in simpler terms........if my Mother were not competent to sign the POA establishing my sister or myself as POA.......the courts would appoint someone (NOT MY SISTER OR MYSELF) to handle bills until a thorough investigation was completed........in both states we were told this could take 4-6 months for completion of investigation of either of us to be appointed POA..

    It is difficult for anyone to make this decision.....it is giving up another part of ones independence.......but it is even more difficult and perhaps decisions are made by someone other than a family member in the final go round.

    Hindsight is sometimes clearer:::: I wish that we had taken mother to talk with a bank officer with whom she had done business for many years or a trust officer or an attorney who would have helped her to understand the decisions and the impact of not making those decisions.

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    Rita has outlined what needs to be done. Here are two very different experiences.

    At the time my husband was diagnosed with PD, I also had problems which turned out to be colon cancer. We both made out our Durable and Medical Powers of attorney and Living wills before I had surgery.

    It turned out to be very important. Part of his dementia and paranoia, delusions, etc., turned into a distrust of me. When it became necessary for me to buy a new home, get the bridge loan for the purchase and sell our home, it was as easy as if he had been able to sign.

    When the mother of a close friend became delusional with Alzheimer's, the mother tore up the power of attorney. One of her three children had died and left six squabbling grandchildren who refused to cooperate in an amicable guardianship. This would have left matters to be decided by the court as Rita has said and would have been very expensive as contested. When the mother had to be placed in a nursing home (our friend was elderly and ill with advanced emphysema), her home could not be sold. The house sat there, deteriorating because there was no money to fix it, until the mother died. At that time the value had decreased and was worth less than the claims against it (I believe by medicare or medicaid for the nurshing home costs). There was no estate left.

    Fortunately the two surviving siblings were able to assist their mother in her needs which were not covered in the nursing home.

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    A few additional comments re: things that need to be done:......and Camilla, possibly included in the CareGiver at a distance file if you are still accumulating things for that.

    1. An attorney should have an original signed copy of the "Power of attorney" as well as the individual (and EACH individual) who has "Power of attorney" . It was difficult for Mother to write when the documents were signed, so the attorney only had her sign two documents......then at the closing of her house, we had to delay things for five days until phone calls were made and an original was sent to the attorney.....Both my sister and I were dealing with other legalities of Mother's at the time and this created an inconvenience to not have a copy available for each of us (we are involved in 3 states at this time, would be different if everything were locally done.) ......it is necessary to produce an ORIGINAL copy of document when signing as POA....a photocopy will be attached to any document the POA signs, but witnesses must see an original at any time you do sign.......I keep original in a clear folder and copies are carried with me..

    2. Obtain an original copy of birth certificate if possible..........you never know when it might be necessary to produce this document!!!!!!!!! Somewhere along the way over the course of years Social Security created a typo in my Mother's birth date..........this typo continued to live..........when we tried to get mother's social security check direct deposited into HER own bank account......we could not do so because WE were giving the wrong birth date to SS!!! We had to produce an official birth certificate. We had POA for example "Peg J. Smith" as she was known for 58 years and as appeared on her marriage license! However, her birth certificate was for Margaret Johanna Utz (as she was baptized).....talk about having to climb through loops, puzzles, and then some......(and no, we don't know if that means that she wasn't legally married to my father for the 49 years that we believed they were married before his death.....!!!!!!).

    3. For chilldren who are dealing with a parent as POA it is also a good idea to have with the important papers......a stamped/sealed copy of the death certificate of the patients spouse (if there is a deceased spouse). We have had two occasions where it was necessary to have a copy of my father's death certificate in order to facilitate changes as we moved all of mother's funds into a trust to provide for her care while she is still living in the nursing home.

    4. Fortunately, my sister and I are the only two children and we agree on what needs to be done and how it is done.........even without this hurdle......we have had to run an obstacle course for the past eight months trying to find and untangle and sort out Mother's affairs. She was able to sign the documents, but is unable to help us (we found three life insurance policies in a box of old papers and photographs....all taken out in the 1930's and early 40's.....paid in full forty years ago.....but we had no idea that they existed. With banks merging every week it seems, we have had to try to chase down where and what happened to funds in pass books that are 40 years old. often times it is money that was continued on in an account at the "new" bank but each one had to be followed up......from a distance, this is numerous phone calls and letters!

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    There is indeed a need to have a Living Will (LW), which states what your wishes are about medical care and procedures , in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. It is legal in many if not all states in the USA--don't know about other countries.

    The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) is also a valuable tool and it appoints someone who agrees to be your "proxy" in medical matters. That person can help see that the LW is carried out, should you be too ill to speak for yourself . It is a great blessing to the patient and of course to the family, to know that her/his wishes are clearly understood in such matters as "extreme measures", life support, etc. Thus can be spelled out in great detail, and can be changed at any time so long as you are rational.

    There is of course also a POA for financial matters, and it should also be "durable" and drawn up by an attorney. That seems to be what your husband already has, and if so he is to be congratulated for making both your lives easier (but be sure it is "durable", which means it will be in effect even if one becomes mentally incapacitated.)

    Hope this puts you on the road to getting the safeguards you need.

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