Our elder has a living trust, which names who she wants as durable power of attorney. At the time it was created, we knew it would be helpful. Until March of 2012, we didn't know *how* helpful. It provided us with a means to care for her without going to court.
Incompetence: The durable POA is often the one turned to when an elder is declared incompetent. This is true whether there is a living trust or will. If court action is required, the POA is often the one chosen to handle an elder's affairs. Unless there is a living trust, most cases do have to go to court.
Medical Information: Privacy laws make it nearly impossible to get needed medical information. The person with the POA has access, as does the person who is medical POA. Often, they are the same person.
This has helped us keep in close contact with our elder's doctors. Signs of trouble are spotted early, and the freedom to communicate directly can help prevent some medical conditions from getting worse.
Monitoring Finances: Like the privacy laws for medicine, it's impossible to get timely financial information without this document. Privacy laws do allow the person with the POA to watch over spending patterns. This is extremely important. Our elder nearly lost $15k in a risky personal loan. Because her POA was watching, the loan didn't go through.
Paying Bills: It may be surprising, but even utility and insurance companies can't just hand out client information without documentation. The power of attorney documents can help open up these lines of communication. Some companies require more documents, but they all want this one.
If your elder has not designated who will hold this responsibility, it's important to encourage action. Doing so before problems occur will make later difficulties a little easier to handle.
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