You do not have to give up total control when granting a Durable Power of Attorney, according to The Daily Sentinel’s article “Tools to help your aging parent.” Granting a power of attorney to a child is often a concern of aging parents but it doesn’t have to be a difficult situation.
The durable power of attorney is different than the “general medical power of attorney” or health care proxy. As implied by its name, this is limited to making decisions about the parent’s health care and is usually used only when the parent is not able to make these decisions on their own.
There are more serious situations, where neither of these types of documents is enough, such as when the parent lacks capacity because of dementia or a medical decision. It is necessary to protect the parent from themselves or anyone who might try to take advantage of their lack of clear mental capacity. This may require that an adult child needs to be appointed as a guardian for their parent.
Being appointed a guardian can be a very emotional event, since the parent and child are not just switching emotional roles, but legal roles. The parent no longer has the capacity to make significant decisions, because a court has found that they no longer have that ability.
You may have heard the term “conservatorship” used. It is similar to guardianship, except that the conservatorship only allows for control over the parent’s financial affairs.
Guardianship is taken very seriously, as it should be. This removes an adult’s right to make any kind of decision on their own. In some states, including Colorado, the court must first be convinced that the parent is unable to effectively receive or evaluate information or to make or communicate decisions. They must be deemed incapacitated, before guardianship can be established. Once that standard has been met, then guardianship is established. If there is a doubt about incapacity, then no guardianship will be established, and the family is faced with finding other ways to help the aging parent.
Aging parents and their children face many issues that are best addressed before incapacity becomes an issue. If the family does not have a plan for the aging parent’s care, it is recommended that the family make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to discuss the various options.
Reference: The Daily Sentinel (March 24, 2019) “Tools to help your aging parent”