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Should I seek durable power of attorney for my elderly parents?

As people age, they become concerned with end-of-life decisions. Sometimes they become concerned with the possibility that they might not be able to communicate decisions related to medical care, treatment or life support.

While a living will is the usual method to communicate those wishes in advance, not all situations can be predicted. That’s why many people opt to give durable power of attorney to a loved one or trusted friend. Situations that may require a durable power of attorney include:

  • A coma
  • Dementia
  • You are under general anesthesia and take a turn for the worse
  • A persistent, vegetative state
  • You are ill and cannot communicate your wishes

Who can use it and how it can be accomplished

A durable power of attorney deals with health care issues. Financial issues are handled with a power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney should go to someone who meets these criteria:

  • Is not a member of the medical care team
  • Is willing to discuss end of life issues
  • Can be trusted to make difficult decisions and can moderate disagreements about health care
  • Meet New York state requirements for a health care agent (be older than 18, among other requirements)

Durable power of attorney can be revoked on a specified date or if a special event (like and illness or accident) occurs.

What makes a durable power of attorney durable? Power of attorney ceases when the subject becomes incapacitated. Durable power of attorney continues despite incapacitation or the passage of time.

To revoke the durable power of attorney, you need to contact the health care provider in writing. It can also be revoked if you choose your spouse and later become divorced, or if the person you choose precedes you in death.

Durable power of attorney is a complicated legal document. If you or a loved one is contemplating durable power of attorney, it’s a good idea to talk with a qualified, experienced attorney.

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