Q: How much does a power of attorney cost?

A: Getting a durable power of attorney for finances, sometimes referred to by the initials, "DPOA" can be completed for little to no charge. Most states have the form available online, or it can be obtained through Legal Aid offices or other elder legal service providers. It is possible that having the document notarized may be the only expense involved.

In some instances, however, the matter is complicated and a lawyer's advice is suggested. In situations where there may be a conflict about who should be appointed as the "agent" on the power of attorney form, or any special circumstances that complicate your finances, it might be wise to involve an elder law attorney. Family issues being the most common cause for POA disputes, we don't normally recommend putting multiple siblings' names on the document to share the role of agent.

There is sometimes confusion about what the term "power of attorney" means. In this answer, I am referring only to the document in which someone appoints you control over their finances- the financial POA.

In this case, if a parent wants to appoint you, and as long as they are sufficiently clear in their thinking to understand their actions, there is no problem with doing so. The form allows control over financial accounts as specified by the details in the document. It is therefore very important that the principal is aware that you will have the legal authority to decide everything about their finances, including paying for where they will live, financial decisions about future care, and how money will be spent if they become unable to speak on their own behalf.

There is another form, sometimes called medical power of attorney, health care directive, or living will that is different from the financial power of attorney. That health care directive has nothing directly to do with financial decisions. It gives authority to a person to make medical decisions if the elder can't speak for him or herself. The agent on a health care directive does not have legal authority to decide anything about finances and therefore in some cases is assigned to a different person.

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If your parent is considering appointing you as agent for a durable power of attorney for finances, it might be good to discuss if they also want you to be the agent for health care decisions. Although these are two separate documents, they are often prepared at the same time. The healthcare directive can also be prepared for free, and may be available from your mom's doctor, clinic, or hospital. It may be found as a free downloadable form online as well.