Article 100-Estate Planning Series: What is the Best Way to Help Your Aging Parent?

Written by Wright Law on . Posted in Estate Planning, Will

Last column I discussed the challenge for both parent and child as an aging parent loses the ability to care for him or herself. In some cases, the parent may have only nominal limitations.  In others, a parent may be fully incapacitated.      

A parent may be mentally capable of handling any situation; and physically capable of handling most.  However, due to limited mobility -- for example – assistance is still necessary.  A trip to the bank now requires coordination of the parents and child’s schedule.  Even when a child is willing to transport an otherwise immobile parent, it is not always convenient . . . for either party. 

In those situations, a “power of attorney” may help.  A power of attorney is a document which allows a parent to transfer to a trusted child the authority to handle certain responsibilities on behalf of the parent.  Granting a power of attorney to a child does not mean the parent has given up any authority.  It simply means the child can also handle those tasks. 

Unfortunately, there are also circumstances in which, due to dementia or other debilitating conditions, a parent is unable to make any decisions.  In effect, they must be protected from themselves or those who would take advantage of them.

In those cases, the child may actually need to be appointed as the “guardian” for their parent, effectively switching the roles of parent and child.  In a guardianship, the parent no longer has the authority to make significant decisions, because a court has found they no longer have the capacity to do so. 

A guardianship is a very serious step.  It takes away a person’s liberty, but only because that person no longer has the ability to care for themselves.  As a result, it can only be granted by a judge after several significant steps are taken to make clear that such a step is necessary.

© 2017 Steven J Wright  

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