Estate Planning 101

Getting Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent in Utah

This guide will delve into the various aspects of acquiring a Power of Attorney for an elderly parent in Utah, 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 assistance managing their personal affairs. One way to provide this help is by obtaining a Power of Attorney (POA) for your elderly parent. In Utah, this process involves understanding your parent's needs, the legal requirements of the state, and the type of POA that best suits their situation.

The Process of Getting POA for a Parent in Utah

The process of obtaining a Power of Attorney (POA) for a parent in Utah can be broken down into several steps. Understanding these steps can ensure that your parent's interests are safeguarded, particularly when they may be incapable of making decisions for themselves. Here are the steps:

  1. Understand the Types of POA: The first step is to understand the different types of POAs available in Utah. A General POA gives broad powers to a person (known as an agent) to act on behalf of your parent. A Durable POA remains in effect even if your parent becomes incapacitated. A Healthcare POA specifically allows the agent to make healthcare decisions when your parent is unable to do so.
  2. Discuss with Your Parent: Have a candid conversation with your parent about their wishes and who they would trust to make decisions on their behalf. This is a sensitive topic, so approach it with care and understanding.
  3. Select an Agent: The agent should be a reliable person who understands your parent's wishes and is willing to act in their best interest. This could be a family member, a close friend, or even a professional like an attorney or financial advisor.
  4. Prepare the POA Document: The next step is to draft the POA document, outlining the powers given to the agent, when these powers begin, and any limitations on these powers.
  5. Legal Formalities: In Utah, the POA document must be signed by your parent (the principal) and notarized. Some types of POA may also require two witnesses.
  6. Store the Document Safely: Keep the original POA document in a safe but accessible place. Give copies to the agent, alternate agents, and any institutions like banks or healthcare providers that might need it.
  7. Review Regularly: It's a good idea to review the POA periodically and make changes if necessary, especially if your parent's health or personal situation changes.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Get POA?

Getting a Power of Attorney (POA) in Utah can seem like a complex process, filled with legal jargon and formalities. You might be wondering if you need a lawyer to handle this process. While it's not legally required to hire a lawyer to draft a POA, there are several factors you should consider before deciding:

  1. Complexity of the Situation: If your parent’s financial situation or estate is complex, having a lawyer might be beneficial. A lawyer can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances, ensuring all legal bases are covered.
  2. Understanding Legal Language: POA documents are filled with legal terminology. If you're comfortable understanding 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 comprehend 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: Elder law can be a complex field, with its own set of rules and regulations. 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

One of the most emotionally challenging circumstances families can face is when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. A decline in cognitive abilities can make it difficult for individuals to manage their own affairs, making a Power of Attorney (POA) an essential tool for safeguarding their interests. Here's how you can navigate the process of getting a POA for a relative with dementia in Utah:

  1. Timing is Crucial: A POA is a legal document that requires the person granting power – the principal – to be of 'sound mind' when signing. Therefore, it’s crucial to discuss and 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 type of POA remains in effect even if your loved one becomes incapacitated, allowing the designated agent to make decisions on their behalf.
  3. Medical Evaluation: If your relative’s mental capacity is in question, it might be wise to have 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 down the line.
  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 crafted to best serve your relative's needs.
  5. Compassionate Communication: Discussing a POA with a loved one suffering from dementia can be emotionally taxing. It's important to approach these conversations with compassion, patience, and understanding, clearly explaining what a POA is and how it can protect their interests.
  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

The need for a Power of Attorney (POA) often becomes apparent in unfortunate circumstances, such as when a loved one falls into a coma or requires extended hospitalization. In these situations, the process for obtaining a POA in Utah has its unique nuances. Here's how to navigate through this challenging scenario:

  1. Incapacity and POA: A fundamental requirement for a valid POA is that the principal (the person granting the power) 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 the foresight to create a Durable POA before becoming incapacitated, the designated agent can step in and make decisions on their behalf. This is why it's always recommended to establish a POA as part 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 document 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 an incredibly emotional time when a loved one is in a coma or hospital. Therefore, it's essential 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 era, many tasks, including creating a Power of Attorney (POA), can be accomplished online. With platforms like Snug, the process of drafting a POA can be done from the comfort of your own home, providing convenience and saving time. Here's how you can make a POA for a parent online using Snug:

  1. Understand Your Needs: Before you start, it's important to understand your specific needs. Snug provides the ability to make 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 Utah, it must be signed by your parent 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.