Estate Planning 101

Getting Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent in Virginia

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

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Taking on the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent can be a significant shift for many families. One tool that can be invaluable during this time is a Power of Attorney (POA). In Virginia, obtaining a POA for an elderly parent involves understanding the state's legal requirements and your parent's unique circumstances. Let’s delve into the process.

The Process of Getting POA for a Parent in Virginia

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows a person (the principal) to grant authority to another person (the agent) to make decisions on their behalf. When obtaining a POA for your parent in Virginia, you will need to follow several steps:

  1. Understand the Types of POA: In Virginia, there are various 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 Medical POA allows the agent to make healthcare decisions when your parent cannot.
  2. Discuss with Your Parent: Have a conversation with your parent about the need for a POA and who they would trust to make decisions on their behalf. This discussion should be approached with sensitivity and understanding.
  3. Select an Agent: Your parent should select a trustworthy individual, capable of understanding their wishes and acting in their best interest. This could be a family member, close friend, or a professional such as an attorney.
  4. Prepare the POA Document: Draft the POA document to clearly outline the powers bestowed upon the agent, when these powers begin, and any limits to these powers.
  5. Legal Formalities: In Virginia, your parent must sign the POA document in the presence of a notary public. Two competent adult witnesses who are not the agent or the notary must also sign the document.
  6. Store the Document Safely: Keep the original POA document in a safe, yet accessible place. Provide copies to the agent, alternate agents, and any institutions like banks or healthcare providers that might need it.
  7. Review Regularly: It's advisable to review the POA periodically and make changes if necessary, particularly if your parent's health or personal situation changes.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Get POA?

While the process of acquiring a POA can seem daunting, you may wonder if you need a lawyer. In Virginia, you are not legally required to hire a lawyer to draft a POA. However, whether or not to involve a lawyer often comes down to the complexity of the situation and your comfort level with legal documents. Consider the following factors:

  1. Complexity of the Situation: If your parent’s financial situation or estate is complex, hiring a lawyer can be beneficial. A lawyer can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances and ensure 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 choose to proceed without a lawyer. However, if you find the language 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 mitigate these issues. They can provide neutral advice and ensure the document is legally sound.
  4. Elder Law Issues: If your parent has unique needs related to elder law, such as long-term care planning or Medicaid eligibility, an elder law attorney could be helpful.

Getting POA for a Relative with Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, obtaining a POA becomes crucial to protect their interests. Here's how you can navigate the process of getting a POA for a relative with dementia in Virginia:

  1. Timing is Key: The principal must be of 'sound mind' when signing a POA. Therefore, it’s crucial to discuss and execute a POA as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis.
  2. Select the Right POA: In the case of dementia, a Durable POA is generally the best choice. This 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, 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.
  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. Sensitive Communication: Discussing a POA with a loved one suffering from dementia can be emotionally difficult. Ensure these conversations are handled 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 is in a coma or requires extended hospitalization, you may need to obtain a POA to manage their affairs. Let's look at how to navigate this challenging situation in Virginia:

  1. Incapacity and POA: A POA requires the principal to 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: If no POA exists and your relative is incapacitated, 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 capable, 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 an emotionally challenging 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 our digital age, making a POA for an elderly parent can be done online, providing a convenient and efficient way to tackle this important task. Platforms like Snug help streamline the process. 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 Virginia, it must be signed by your parent in the presence of a notary public and two competent adult witnesses.
  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.