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When is the principle allowed to start using the dpoa. How protected is the person giving away the power.

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I guess I'm just repeating but maybe in simpler language - if you have DPOA you can legally act in the persons place if you are doing so in agreement with what they want - you can not over-ride what they want in cases where you disagree with their choice. Once the person is declared incompetent by a judge you can make any decision you wish whether the person agrees or not.
For instance if I am DPOA and my mother wants to give all her money to Friends of Retired Mimes I can't stop her even if I know this would be a financial disaster unless she has been declared incompetent in a court of law. If she has been declared incompetent in court and by a judge I can stop her.
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Generally speaking the POA can be acted upon when the person becomes incompetent, however, a POA can open many doors for the caregiver while the elder is still competent. And remember competence can be very subjective. My Dad is "legally competent". He would pass the basic tests given by a doctor or judge. But as his dementia began he totally screwed up the finances. I mean TOTALLY! Luckily my folks had granted me a very broad POA and I was able to track down the annuities, checking accounts, CDs, and all the rest and get things in order. It took months.

And here's another point about POAs. If I were dishonest I could have used my POA to feather my own nest to a large degree. I could have wiped my folks out. It goes both ways. Some nasty kinfolk have wiped out elders using POA while others can't get the bank to release money for legitimate reasons.
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BTW, durable POAs and springing POAs remain in effect until the death of the signer unless they are revoked. A person has to be competent to appoint a POA, so the window of time to appoint a POA closes when the person becomes incompetent. If the POA is appointed before a person is declared incompetent, then the POA remains in effect. A person cannot appoint or revoke a POA if they are incompetent. Guardianship comes in at that point.
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You need to read the POA to see exactly what it provides in terms of acting.

I acted under my father's when he was unable to communicate for himself, not because of an incompetency adjudication or opinion but because he was in a chemically induced coma, on a ventilator, and later had a trach and couldn't speak. He communicated by writing though.
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The POA form will have when it becomes effective. If it is durable, it becomes effective immediately upon signing. The other type of POA -- springing -- becomes effective only after the signer becomes incapacitated. A durable POA does not give a person the ability to make decisions for the signer if he/she is still competent. It does give them the ability to be an agent in carrying out the wishes of the signer, e.g. going to the bank, paying bills, handling property, or filling out tax forms.
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I would check with an attorney in your state. I thought durable meant that it continued in force after incompetency of the declarant. I can see how that might be confusing.
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The DPOA allows you to act in accordance with their wishes until they are certified incompetent by two MD's. Those two MD's should be psychiatrists or neurologists. Once declared incompetent, you make decisions for them for the best of their welfare, despite their objections, such as taking away the car or even placing them in a facility when they want to be home.
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