Where to Start with Power of Attorney

Part of planning for a senior's future includes making power of attorney arrangements.Please note that this website is not able to provide legal advice. The article below is for informational purposes only and designed to help you get started on researching this issue further. We strongly recommend that you speak with a lawyer or other legal authority to understand how the law applies to your specific situation.

When planning for your aging loved one’s future, one of the most important conversations to have is about granting power of attorney (POA). Someone who has power of attorney for an individual is legally able to make important decisions for them. To hold power of attorney both you and the individual must be 18 or older and of sound mind. Here are the basic steps for acquiring this important legal document.

Discuss with Your Loved One the Type of POA You Want to Have.

In California, there are four different versions of power of attorney, and each has a different function. Durable power of attorney will give you the power to make financial decisions for your loved one. Limited power of attorney will give you the right to carry out a specific duty, and once you fulfill that duty your power will end. Medical power of attorney allows you to make medical decisions for your loved one. General power of attorney is similar to Durable, but your power ends if your loved one becomes incapacitated.

Decide Who Will Hold Power of Attorney.

Your loved one may have several relatives and trusted friends who they might choose to act on their behalf. Choose someone who will be available to complete the specified duties and who has the most expertise depending on the type of power of attorney desired. A family member who is an accountant, for example, would likely make a great choice for holding durable power of attorney, but may not be the best person for making medical decisions. Your loved one’s comfort with that particular person is an important consideration as well.

Complete the Paperwork.

In California, Power of Attorney can only be granted in writing. Your loved one can create the document themselves, or someone else (often a lawyer) can create it for them. The document must contain the signatures of the person granting the POA and the person receiving the POA, what powers are being granted, and what date the POA will take effect (if not intended to start immediately, in which case no date is needed).

Get the Document Notarized.

The POA document will need to be notarized in order to be valid. Any bank branch can provide this service for you.

Once these steps have been completed, make sure the form is somewhere where it can be easily accessed when it will be needed. The advantages of preparing in advance will be lost if the document is not available when important financial steps or medical actions need to be taken!