What is Power of Attorney or POA? A Checklist for Parents

As parents tackle the task of estate planning for their aging parents, power of attorney is a key component. Here's what to have in order as you begin.

Power of attorney

Power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to act as his or her representative.

And when it comes to the financial role reversal involved in caring for your aging parents, it’s something many parents in the sandwich generation come to know well.

When signing documents, the person designated as POA typically includes both names, adding “POA” next to their own.

There are five types of POA, notes Crossroads Hospice, which has locations in several states. Of those, durable power of attorney takes effect immediately and remains in effect until a parent’s passing.

“(It) leaves a person with full control of another person’s decisions should they, at some point, become unable to make them,” Crossroads notes.

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It typically takes effect “when an individual becomes disabled or incapacitated,” it adds, and “expires upon its principal’s death.”

POA checklist

Here is a list of information helpful to have before taking charge of parents’ finances, according to personal finance magazine, Kiplinger.

  • Estate-planning documents, including power of attorney for finances and health care
    Location of safe deposit box and keys
  • Social Security Numbers
    Birth and marriage certificates
  • Names and contact information of financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, brokerage firms and insurance companies
  • Information about pension(s), life insurance and annuities
  • Names and contact information of financial adviser and tax preparer
  • Deeds to property and cemetery plots
  • Vehicle titles and registration

Finding legal help

Planning for POA is important. If you’re not sure where to start, locate an established elder law attorney in your area. You can find some Michigan options in the Senior Services & Information section of Metro Parent’s Senior Resources directory.

Local elder care attorneys are also well-versed in state laws when it comes to legal documents, notes DailyCaring.com, and can ensure all that documentation is prepared correctly.

Establishing POA before an emergency happens is key, DailyCaring adds: If this isn’t in place, it notes, “you may have to go to court to get the authority to handle their financial matters and make medical decisions on their behalf.”

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