How to Get Power of Attorney for
Your Elderly Parents in Florida
To get a Power of Attorney in Florida for your elderly parents, they need to name you as their guardian in a legal document that they sign while they are sound of mind.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Power of Attorney allows someone to appoint another person or organization to manage their affairs if they become unable to do so. While there are various Power of Attorney legal arrangements available to Florida residents, the most common is the Durable Power of Attorney. This kind of Power of Attorney remains in place as a person becomes progressively incapacitated.
Families often set up a Durable Power of Attorney during the early stages of dementia and other diseases affecting mental health, so it is in place before the condition progresses.
It is not possible to obtain a Power of Attorney when someone is no longer of sound mind. In this situation, a guardianship arrangement will need to be established, which is a more complex undertaking.
Why Do Families Set Up Power of Attorney Arrangements?
As you and your parents look toward the future, it’s essential to plan for a time when they can’t manage their own affairs. Setting up a Power of Attorney while your parents are still healthy, happy and can have full input into their future can give the whole family some peace of mind.
Remember, a Durable Power of Attorney is established for the point when your parent cannot make their own decisions or manage things like banking on their own. That means it won’t affect your parents if they’re currently healthy or in the early stages of dementia. They will retain their independence and as long as they are of sound mind and they can also revoke Power of Attorney privileges at any time. The Durable Power of Attorney will only come into play when your parents can’t make sound decisions on their own.
Discussing Power of Attorney Agreements with your Parents
Many people are hesitant to sign a Power of Attorney, even when facing a progressive condition like dementia. It can be upsetting for everyone involved to consider the reality of the situation ahead of them – and with good reason. Dementia is a challenging condition that can change the lives of your parents and your family as a whole. But it’s important to remember that having dementia isn’t the end. It’s simply the path toward a different lifestyle, where your parent needs support to maximize their abilities, and family members step in to make important decisions.
Discussing Power of Attorney is important to your parent’s well-being, but it can be difficult. Go into the situation with a focus on the positive. Power of Attorney will lift the burden of making decisions off your parent’s shoulders and give them peace of mind for the future. Here are a few other tips:
- Bring up the subject calmly. A matter-of-fact approach often works best, but be respectful and open to your parent’s feelings on the subject.
- Explain what a Durable Power of Attorney is and why it’s important to take care of it now, as well as the benefits
- Before the discussion, reach out to family members and figure out who is the ablest and most willing person to take on the responsibility
- Assure your parents that you want to make sure they have a family member designated so that decisions will be made by someone who has their best interests in mind, versus a court-appointed guardian
- Be patient. Your parents may be resistant to the idea at first. This is entirely understandable. You’re asking them to allow access to their private financial and medical information, after all. You may need to leave some information with them to review and bring up the subject again on another day.
It is vital that your parents understand why a Power of Attorney is such a crucial document, but this discussion can be jarring if it comes up out of the blue.
If the situation is not urgent, you may want to start laying the groundwork well in advance. You could mention a friend who has gone through the Power of Attorney process with their parents recently or ask if they’ve thought about how they plan to manage things as they get older.
How to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents
Setting up a Power of Attorney agreement in Florida is a simple process. You won’t even need to appear in court as long as your parents are competent enough to sign and understand the document.
- Decide who will act as the “agent.” The agent is the person designated to act on behalf of the “principal,” the person delegating authority to the agent. The agent must be a competent person 18 years of age or older, though they do not need to be related to the principal.
- Download and print Power of Attorney documents from a reputable source, preferably a State of Florida or local municipality website
- Fill in the form
- Identify two adults to act as witnesses
- Find a notary and have both the agent and principal sign the form in front of them
- Save the Power of Attorney forms in a very safe place. You will need to produce your notarized Power of Attorney form each time you need to act on behalf of one of your parents.
Must a Person Be Competent to Sign a Power of Attorney?
Yes. The principal must be able to understand that they are signing a legal document that will allow the agent to act on their behalf in virtually any capacity. As the agent, you will be able to manage all of your parents’ financial, legal and medical affairs. A Power of Attorney gives the agent the power to sell the principal’s home or make life-altering medical decisions.
This is a key principle that you may want to communicate to your parents: no one is trying to take away their independence. You are helping them maintain their lifestyle and ensuring that someone who loves and supports them will make the best possible decisions for them in the future, if and when it becomes necessary.
When Parents Are Not of Sound Mind
If one or both of your parents are experiencing advanced dementia or another progressive condition that impacts their mental acuity, you’ll need to get a doctor to confirm whether or not they are able to sign a Power of Attorney document. In some cases, the doctor may have to testify in court.
In this situation, you’ll need to establish guardianship through the Florida court system to make decisions on their behalf. It’s a good idea to hire an attorney to help you handle this process, as it can become quite complicated.
When in Doubt, Contact an Elder Law Attorney
As with all things legal, if your family’s situation is complicated, it is well worth paying for a few hours of an attorney’s time to ensure everything is done well and your parents feel secure in their decision. The last thing you want is to realize too late that the Power of Attorney you signed is not valid. You can find legal help through the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys.
The Sterling Aventura: Supporting Adults and Their Families
At The Sterling Aventura, we know that living with dementia can be stressful for adults and their families. We’re here to support everyone involved. Whether your parent is in the early stages of dementia and doesn’t need full-time support or you’re dealing with the later stages of the disease, we’re here for you.
Our Florida memory care community provides personalized support plans that help every resident maximize their abilities so they can reach their personal goals. As a family member, you’re an important part of that. We’ll take the burden of care off your shoulders so you can focus on spending time with your parent, helping them live the life you know they want.
Learn more about how the Sterling Aventura partners with families to create an environment of engagement, community and collaboration. We’d love to talk with you about our commitment to helping our residents live full and meaningful lives. Reach out today for more information.