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Discussing a durable power of attorney with an elderly parent

Many District of Columbia residents have a difficult time broaching the subject of estate planning with their elderly parents. Some people have wills, but may not have a durable power of attorney (POA). This document can be crucial if a parent becomes incapacitated.

In order to be legally allowed to handle an aging parent's finances when he or she is no longer able to so, a POA is required. This form can give the agent (the person appointed to handle financial matters) as much or as little power as desired. A POA can also allow for financial responsibilities to be assigned to more than just one person. For instance, one individual could be put in charge of paying bills while another could become responsible for selling assets or moving money between accounts.

In the absence of a durable power of attorney, an elderly person's children, or other interested parties, would have to go to court to obtain the authority to conduct the specified individual's financial affairs. A conservator or conservators are appointed by the court. This process involves multiple expenses including filing fees, bond fees and attorney fees. Furthermore, having to go through this process could cause unnecessary delays in caring for an aging parent.

The above expenses may be avoided by the drafting and execution of a durable power of attorney. Dealing with eventualities such as death and incapacitation are not pleasant, but are vital for District of Columbia residents who have aging parents. The hope is that such a document will never have to be used, but having one available to execute if needed could put everyone's mind at ease.

Source: oregonlive.com, Sandwich generation: Handling an elderly parent's financial, legal and medical matters, Amy Wang, Jan. 29, 2014

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