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Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents

Written by Kevin Ryan
 about the author
7 minute readLast updated April 19, 2023

A power of attorney (POA) document is a legal tool that can help families plan for an elderly loved one’s future wishes and care needs. By naming someone to act on their behalf, a POA can help ensure your parent’s financial and health care decisions are made according to their wishes should they become unable to do so. A POA may also provide clarity and simplify a family member’s responsibilities while reducing the potential risk for disagreements. However, to avoid complications, it’s important that a power of attorney for an elderly parent is created and signed before it’s needed.

Key Takeaways

  1. A power of attorney is a legal document. The document provides details on how your parent’s health care and finances should be managed if they become unable to do so on their own.
  2. It's important to have a power of attorney drafted before it's needed. Encouraging a loved one who is incapacitated to create a power of attorney may present legal obstacles.
  3. The agent named in a power of attorney should be trusted. The designated agent will be responsible for carrying out the principal's wishes.
  4. It is recommended a power of attorney document is drafted by an attorney. While finding power of attorney forms online is easy, hiring a lawyer may help your family avoid future legal complications.

How to get a power of attorney (POA) for elderly parents

A caregiver or adult child cannot get a power of attorney (POA) over a parent. The parent, or principal, is responsible for initiating the process of creating a POA. They are also responsible for granting an agent the power to make certain decisions on their behalf. If your parent is hesitant to set up a POA, it is important for them to know that, should they become incapacitated, a conservator or guardian may need to be appointed for them by a court.
Another important aspect you should know about setting up a power of attorney is that it must be done while your loved one is still of sound mind. Many families mistakenly believe the time to get a POA is when a parent becomes unable to make decisions due to an accident or illness. If a parent’s competency is in question when a POA is signed, the document could be considered invalid.

General steps for creating a power of attorney

The steps for creating a power of attorney can vary by state and may have specific language and witness requirements.[01] The circumstances and needs of each family can also dictate what steps should be taken to create a robust, legally binding power of attorney.
Consider these steps to help your parents create a power of attorney:
  • Help parents organize important information such as bank documents and wills
  • Discuss medical care wishes
  • Discuss long-term care, living options, and end-of-life wishes
  • Review an online POA document together
  • Research family or elder attorneys who can provide additional guidance

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Enlist legal help to create the right power of attorney document

While you can find POA documents online, it may be worth the time and money to hire an elder law or an estate planning attorney to draft a POA for you and your parent. Because there are different types of power of attorney documents available to fit specific circumstances, an attorney can help create the document that fits your loved one’s needs. Hiring an attorney may also help families avoid future questions regarding their loved one’s competency at the time the document was executed.
If your parent already has a POA, it’s important for them to review it frequently to ensure their agent and powers continue to reflect their preferences. Keep in mind that, just like when creating a POA, a parent must have capacity for changes made to the POA to be considered valid.

The designated agent should be a trusted decision-maker

An agent named in a POA should have a history of making good financial and/or health care decisions. They should be trusted to follow through with commitments and have good communication skills. They will be responsible for keeping family and friends informed if your loved one becomes unable to make decisions for themselves. If you and your parents agree that you will be named as their agent, that along with the specific powers you are being granted should be detailed in the POA draft.

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Why your loved one needs a power of attorney (POA)

Attending to your loved one’s care can be more difficult without a power of attorney in place.
Here are a few things a properly drafted power of attorney can help your family avoid:
  • You may not know your loved one’s wishes. One benefit of a POA is that it can spark conversations about your loved one’s health care wishes, home, and money.
  • You may not be able to cover their expenses. Without a power of attorney, legally you may not be allowed to pay bills from your loved one’s bank accounts or file taxes and medical claims on their behalf. You may end up having to pay out of pocket to cover certain expenses.
  • Your family members may disagree about what needs to be done. A POA and a trusted agent can forestall quarrels by giving someone the legal power to make decisions based on the principal’s wishes.
  • You may have to go to court. Without a POA, you may not have the legal standing to act on your loved one’s behalf. Making a request from the courts to do so can be costly and take time.

Understanding the different types of power of attorney (POA)

Power of attorney documents can be customized to meet a loved one’s needs. And because the legal requirements vary from state to state, there’s no single power of attorney that fits every situation. There are two types of POA that address either financial or health and medical concerns. In some states, a medical POA may be referred to as a health care proxy or health care surrogate. Each type of POA has several variations and can be tailored to specify which medical and financial decisions an agent can make on a person’s behalf. Learning about the different types of power of attorney is an important step to choosing the legal document that best fits your loved one’s needs.

Help exploring care questions for your aging loved one

If you’re a caregiver with questions about how to support your loved one, Senior Care Advisors can help you find answers. They can provide information regarding care services options in your area including in-home care and other senior living options.


  1. National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Durable powers of attorney.

Meet the Author
Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan is a copywriter at OurParents. He has written about Medicaid and Medicare, and focuses on creating content for caregivers. Previously, Kevin worked as a freelance writer, a special education teacher, and a counselor for adults with developmental disabilities. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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