Aging parents and POAs

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By Patricia Nugent

When you have an aging parent, there are many complicated considerations to ensuring their health and well-being. A fall or stroke can change your situation very quickly. While it’s an unpleasant thing to anticipate, making sure you have both a financial and healthcare power of attorney in place ensures you have the authority to make informed decisions if they become physically or mentally incapable to do so.

Simply put, a healthcare POA allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you and communicate your wishes to medical staff, while a financial one authorizes an individual to handle your financial decisions. They are only viable documents while a person is living and become null and void when they pass away.

I caught up with local estate planning attorney Margaret T. Karl for insights.

“I recommend having POAs signed and notarized while the parent is still competent,” she says. “If you don’t have a power of attorney in place and your parent becomes incapacitated, that would force you to apply for guardianship, which involves a lot more complicated paperwork and a hearing before a judge.”

“Sometimes seniors can become paranoid that they are losing control, or that their children may take their funds,” she says. “But I’ve worked with many clients over the years who waited too long. Along with a living will, POAs are fundamental documents I suggest people have in place for peace of mind.”

Another situation people are often surprised about is when Margie recommends married couples have a power of attorney for each other. “While marriage establishes a legal relationship, there will always be accounts individual to one spouse, like retirement accounts, that the other spouse could not access without a financial power of attorney,” she says.

Margaret T. Karl, Attorney at Law, is located at 25800 North Depot Street, Suite 102, in Olmsted Falls. Call 440-782-5051 or visit