A son who is preparing to help his mother with her legal and financial affairs asks what legal documents he needs to obtain in Hometown Life’s article “Tips for becoming a power of attorney” . He is concerned about a sibling who is estranged from the family and could cause problems in the future. How can he go about protecting his mother and himself?
The most important thing he needs to do is obtain both a medical power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for his mother. These are two separate powers of attorney documents that will give the son the legal right to handle both her financial affairs and her medical care.
With powers of attorney in place, he will be able to speak directly to his mother’s healthcare providers, including her doctors, and to make end-of-life decisions on her behalf. An unhappy family member could indeed cause problems, especially when it comes to major decisions.
The durable power of attorney is geared for legal or financial issues, including handling the mother’s day-to-day money tasks and making decisions about her investments and assets such as the family home.
Having both of these documents gives the son the ability to do what is necessary for his mother while also protecting him from an uncooperative family member. However, there are more tasks to be done.
First, he needs to find out if she has an estate plan including a will, a trust and any other powers of attorney. He should find out if they are current, and if they still reflect her wishes.
If she has an estate plan, he’ll need to find out when it was last updated and see if it needs to be revised. If she does not, she needs to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan to distribute assets according to her wishes and create any needed trusts.
He should also collect her medical information, so he knows who her doctors are and what medications she is taking. He also needs to understand her medical insurance coverage and see if she has the protection that she needs from health care costs.
For her financial affairs, the son needs to gather up information about her accounts, including passwords and login information. The mother should add the son as a signatory to her bank accounts and brokerage houses.
He should also get the names and contact information of any financial professionals she works with. That includes financial advisors, insurance agents, and CPAs. It would be wise to get the last two years of her tax returns. This could be invaluable in helping to understand her assets.
As the power of attorney, the son can protect himself and his mother from the estranged family member. Getting these legal documents in place are crucial to making sure your wishes are carried out even when you can’t make those decisions for yourself.
Reference: Hometown Life (Dec. 6, 2019) “Tips for becoming a power of attorney”