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My parents and I are planning ahead to possibly have a DPOA for my mom in case something happens to my dad. She is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. If we go ahead and get one now, does that mean she nor my dad will be able to make her decisions now or will I have to starting when the DPOA is signed?

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Also, the elder needing the DPOA, as well as being able to sign it, must produce/bring with them a valid photo ID to the notary public.
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Excellent elaboration drkernisan! Thanks.
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A durable power of attorney document will allow the agent (oft referred to as "the POA") to act when the principal is incapacitated.

It is up to the principal to specify whether the agent is authorized to act right away, or only once the principal is incapacitated. It's important for the document to spell out the criteria for being incapacitated; I've read through a lot of these and many are surprisingly vague.

If the agent has authority to act right away, the principal can always override unless he/she is deemed incapacitated.

Many of the geriatric care managers I've worked with say it's good for the agent to give the POA authority to act right away. That way you don't have to bring proof that the older parent is incapacitated, in order to take action to assist the older person. But, the POA has to be trustworthy.

I believe you can also include language specifying that the POA needs to allow someone else to review the actions taken, or some such. This isn't required but I can see how it might reduce the chance of certain abuses.

Last but not least: technically the principal MUST have capacity to sign the document giving someone POA, otherwise it's not valid and you need to wait until they are mentally better, or get guardianship. "Incompetent" people signing legal documents is a no-no. That said, capacity is decision-specific and someone with mild dementia may have the capacity to assign POA to someone, despite having lost capacity to manage something complicated.

Having capacity comes down to whether the person understand the decision, the options, and the consequences. They should also be able to be consistent about the choice.

hope this helps.
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Each person must have a separate DPOA.
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I agree all these answers are great. Make the DPOA specific to your mom and dad's health and finances. DPOA can say what ever you want it to say. Don't forget DPOA's can be written so the person giving the power is STILL in charge of their decision making. When the person is no long able to make med/finan. decisions the DPOA can be written to be activated at that point. A person does not have to be incompetent when the DPOA is written. Again it can be written so WHEN the person is not able to make his/her own decision it then becomes active. Seeking an Elder Law attorney is a good idea too. Great advice all.
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All these answers are great, especially seeing an elder law attorney to draw up the documents. One thing I learned is that when you have to use a POA, whether financial or medical, give them a COPY, not the original. I had a hard time getting an original back from a hospital when a copy would have been sufficient. I created two folders, one for financial information and one for medical. Every time there was a trip to a hospital, I grabbed my medical folder and had a copy of the POA to give to them. I did run into one problem, in that my parents made out these documents before I got married and changed my name. One bank refused to recognize my name change and I had to bring my mother to the bank to close out a CD. She really didn't know what she was signing, but the bank was adamant that my driver's license and marriage license were not sufficient ID.
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Under either a DPOA or a Medical Power of Attorney, the person granting the power (the principal) can always act and can override acts of the person granted the power (the agent.) Whether the DPOA should take effect immediately or be effective only when the doctor writes that the person granting their power is unable to manage their financial affairs depends on the individual situation. It should include the power to hire caregivers, the power to apply for Medicaid and other government programs and to arrange assets and income to qualify for these programs (such as creating a Qualified Income Trust, a Medicaid-qualified annuity, a Special Needs Trust, a Caregiver Lease, etc.) If it will affect real property (including mineral rights), it must be recorded with the county clerk where the property is located.
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Tami, another suggestion, if your Dad is of clear mind, let him be the primary Power of Attorney with you being secondary.   My parents had that and it work out quite well, thus if my Mom felt she couldn't make any decisions for my Dad, then I was next in line.   As for your Mom, is there another relative who could be secondary in case you were unable to be POA?   It's always good to have a back up.

If your parents own a house, make sure the POA is written where it allows you to sell the house in case the house needs to be sold, and your parents are unable to handle that paperwork.  The POA needs special wording. 

While at the Elder Law Attorney's office, have new Wills drawn up, along with other legal documents that come in handy now a days.   My parents Wills were older then dirt, so with new Wills all the landmines from the old Will were gone... whew.   State laws are always changing so it is good to be current.

Also, have a POA and Will made for yourself.
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If they are competent and cooperative I'd get POA for both of them. See an attorney that's familiar with state and local law. Make the POA very broad, covering financial and medical issues. Have it worded so it can be used at any time your parents agree for you to take over various tasks such as bills and banking. They will still have all rights and control unless they agree to let you take over or become unable to do so.
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