Estate Planning 101

Getting Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent in West Virginia

This guide will delve into the various aspects of acquiring a Power of Attorney for an elderly parent in West Virginia, 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 assistance with their legal and financial affairs. One common way to provide this assistance is through a Power of Attorney (POA). If you are located in West Virginia and need to obtain a POA for an elderly parent, here are the steps you should follow, as well as some important considerations to keep in mind along the way.

The Process of Getting POA for a Parent in West Virginia

Getting a POA for a parent in West Virginia involves a number of steps. It is important to understand the process and the legal requirements in the state to ensure your parent's interests are well-protected.

  1. Understand the Types of POA: West Virginia recognizes several types of POAs, including a General POA, which gives broad powers to the agent; a Durable POA, which remains effective even if the principal becomes incapacitated; and a Medical POA, which allows the agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal.
  2. Discuss with Your Parent: Before proceeding, have an open and honest conversation with your parent about their wishes, and who they feel comfortable appointing as their agent.
  3. Choose an Agent: The agent should be a trustworthy individual who understands your parent's wishes and is willing to act in their best interests.
  4. Draft the POA Document: The POA document should clearly outline the powers granted to the agent, any limitations on those powers, and when the powers will begin.
  5. Follow Legal Requirements: In West Virginia, the POA document must be signed by your parent and notarized. Depending on the type of POA, it may also need to be witnessed by two adults.
  6. Store the Document: Keep the POA in a safe but accessible place and give copies to the agent and any relevant financial institutions or healthcare providers.
  7. Review Regularly: Review the POA periodically and make changes as necessary, especially if your parent's health or personal situation changes.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Get POA?

You may wonder whether you need a lawyer to get a POA in West Virginia. While it's not a legal requirement to have a lawyer draft a POA, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether to seek legal help:

  1. Complexity of the Situation: If your parent’s situation is complex, involving a large estate or complicated financial matters, having a lawyer can be beneficial.
  2. Understanding Legal Language: If you're comfortable understanding legal terms and applying them to your situation, you might be able to draft the POA without a lawyer. However, if you find the language confusing, a lawyer can help.
  3. Disputes: If there's potential for family disputes about the POA, having a lawyer 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 beneficial.

Getting POA for a Relative with Dementia

Getting a POA for a relative with dementia can be particularly challenging. Here's how to navigate the process in West Virginia:

  1. Timing is Key: The person granting the POA must be of 'sound mind' when signing the document. Therefore, it’s important to have a discussion 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 often the best choice. This type of POA stays 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 tailored to best serve your relative's needs.
  5. Compassionate Communication: Discussing a POA with a loved one suffering from dementia can be emotionally difficult. Be sure to approach these conversations with compassion 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 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 hospitalized for an extended period, you may need to obtain a POA to manage their affairs. Here's how to navigate this challenging scenario in West 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 highlights 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 today’s digital world, many tasks, including creating a POA, can be done online. Platforms like Snug make the process of creating a POA easy and convenient. 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 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 West Virginia, 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.