Estate Planning 101

Getting Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent in Arizona

This guide will delve into the various aspects of acquiring a Power of Attorney for an elderly parent in Arizona, from the basics to the specifics of unique situations including dementia, mental illness, and hospitalization.
September 14, 2023

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As our parents age, they may need additional support to manage their affairs, especially if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. In Arizona, one of the ways to facilitate this support is by obtaining a Power of Attorney (POA). This legal document allows a person (the agent) to make decisions on behalf of your parent (the principal). Let's walk through the process of getting a POA for an elderly parent in Arizona.

The Process of Getting POA for a Parent in Arizona

Understanding the process of obtaining a POA in Arizona can help ensure that your parent's interests are well protected. Below are the steps involved:

  1. Understand the Types of POA: Arizona recognizes several types of POAs. A General POA gives broad powers to the agent to act on behalf of your parent. A Durable POA remains in effect even if your parent becomes incapacitated. A Healthcare POA allows the agent to make medical decisions if your parent is unable to do so.
  2. Have Discussions with Your Parent: It’s important to discuss the need for a POA with your parent. This conversation should include who they trust to make decisions on their behalf. This can be a sensitive topic, so approach it tactfully.
  3. Choose an Agent: The agent should be someone who is trustworthy, understands your parent's wishes, and is willing to act in their best interest. It could be a family member, close friend, or a professional such as an attorney.
  4. Draft the POA Document: Once you understand the type of POA and the agent, the next step is to draft the document. It should clearly outline the powers given to the agent, when these powers begin, and any limitations on the powers.
  5. Legal Formalities: In Arizona, the POA document must be signed by your parent and the agent in the presence of a notary public.
  6. Store the Document: While there's no requirement to file the document with any court or government body in Arizona, it's recommended to keep it in a safe but accessible place. Provide copies to the agent, alternate agents, and any institutions like banks or healthcare providers who may need it.
  7. Review Periodically: It’s a good idea to review the POA periodically and make changes if necessary. This is especially important if your parent's health or personal situation changes.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Get POA?

The process of obtaining a POA can be complex and filled with legal jargon. Naturally, you might wonder if you need a lawyer to get a POA in Arizona. While you are not legally required to hire a lawyer to draft a POA, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Complexity of the Situation: If your parent's financial situation or estate is complex, a lawyer can provide valuable advice and ensure that all legal bases are covered.
  2. Understanding Legal Language: POA documents contain legal terminology. If you're comfortable with these terms and how they apply to your situation, you might decide to proceed without a lawyer. However, if you find the jargon confusing, a lawyer can help clarify these terms and ensure you fully understand the document you're preparing.
  3. Disputes: If there's potential for disputes among family members about the POA, having a lawyer can help navigate these issues. They can provide neutral advice and ensure the document is legally sound.
  4. Elder Law Issues: If your parent has unique needs such as long-term care planning or Medicaid eligibility, an elder law attorney could be beneficial.

Getting POA for a Relative with Dementia

If a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, their ability to manage their own affairs can decline, making a POA a crucial tool for safeguarding their interest. Here's how you can navigate the process of getting a POA for a relative with dementia in Arizona:

  1. Timing is Crucial: A POA is a legal document that requires the principal to be of 'sound mind' when signing. Therefore, it’s crucial to execute a POA as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis. Waiting too long might render your loved one incapable of legally granting a POA.
  2. Choosing the Right POA: In the case of dementia, a Durable POA is often the best choice. This POA remains in effect even if your loved one becomes incapacitated, allowing the agent to make decisions on their behalf.
  3. Medical Evaluation: If your relative's mental capacity is in question, consider having them evaluated by a medical professional before executing the POA. This can provide evidence that they were competent at the time of signing, potentially preventing legal disputes later on.
  4. Legal Assistance: Due to the complexities involved, it's often beneficial to involve a lawyer. They can guide you through the process, ensuring all legal requirements are met and that the document is tailored to best serve your relative's needs.
  5. Compassionate Communication: Discussing a POA with a loved one suffering from dementia can be emotionally challenging. Approach these conversations with compassion, patience, and understanding.
  6. Regular Reviews: As dementia progresses, it may be necessary to review and adjust the POA. Regularly reassessing the situation will help ensure that your loved one's needs are being adequately met.

Getting POA for Relatives in Comas or in Hospital

If a loved one falls into a coma or requires extended hospitalization, the need for a POA often becomes apparent. In these situations, the process for obtaining a POA in Arizona has its own unique challenges. Here's how to navigate through this difficult scenario:

  1. Incapacity and POA: For a POA to be valid, the principal must be of sound mind at the time of signing. If your relative is in a coma or otherwise incapacitated, they may not be able to legally grant a POA.
  2. Existing POA: If your relative had a Durable POA before becoming incapacitated, the designated agent can step in and make decisions on their behalf. This underscores the importance of advance planning.
  3. Guardianship or Conservatorship: In cases where no POA exists and your relative is unable to create one due to their condition, you may need to pursue a guardianship or conservatorship. This involves a court process where a judge appoints a guardian or conservator to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.
  4. Medical POA or Healthcare Proxy: If your relative is hospitalized but still mentally competent, they might consider creating a Medical POA or healthcare proxy. This specifically allows the appointed agent to make healthcare decisions if the principal becomes unable to do so.
  5. Legal Assistance: Given the complexities of these situations, seeking legal advice is highly recommended. An attorney can guide you through the available options and help you choose the best course of action.
  6. Emotional Support: It’s a challenging time when a loved one is in a coma or hospital. Therefore, it's vital to seek emotional support for yourself, whether from friends, family, or professional counselors.

Making a POA for a Parent Online with Snug

In today's digital age, many tasks, including creating a POA, can be done online. Using platforms like Snug, the process of drafting a POA can be done from the comfort of your home, saving you time and providing convenience. Here's how you can make a POA for a parent online using Snug:

  1. Understand Your Needs: Before you start, it's crucial to understand your specific needs. Snug provides the ability to create general and medical powers of attorney.
  2. Create an Account: To get started, create an account on Snug. This will allow you to access their suite of tools and resources.
  3. Follow the Guided Process: Snug provides a guided process to create your POA. This step-by-step process ensures all necessary information is included and that the document meets your specific needs.
  4. Review and Edit: Snug allows you to review and edit the document as necessary. This ensures that the final POA accurately reflects your parent's wishes and the powers granted to the agent.
  5. Legal Validation: Once satisfied with the document, you can print it out. Remember, for the POA to be legally valid in Arizona, it must be signed by your parent and the agent in the presence of a notary public.
  6. Store Safely: After validation, Snug offers safe and secure storage for your documents. This ensures that the POA is readily available when needed.

By using Snug, you're not only making the process of creating a POA more efficient, but you're also ensuring that the document is legally sound. Snug's platform is designed to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning, providing peace of mind that your parent's interests are well protected. Remember, it's always a good idea to consult with a legal professional if you have specific questions or concerns.