As loved ones age, they may require additional care and support, which may involve transitioning to a senior living community that provides services and programs tailored to their needs. During decision-making, the topic of power of attorney may come up, and it can cause confusion and anxiety for many families and their loved ones.
There’s a common misconception that spouses automatically hold power of attorney for each other. Spouses do not automatically have power of attorney for each other. In reality, obtaining power of attorney is a deliberate and necessary step to grant one spouse the authority to make crucial decisions on behalf of the other, especially in unforeseen circumstances like illness or incapacity.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants someone the authority to act on behalf of another person in various matters, from financial decisions to healthcare choices. The person who grants the authority is the ‘principal,’ and the one receiving the authority is the ‘agent.’
The agent has the power to make decisions and act on behalf of the principal as if the principal were making the decisions themselves. The scope of power can vary, and there are different types of POA for specific purposes.
Types of Power of Attorney
Spouses must understand the types of power of attorney, as each serves a unique purpose. The two most common are financial and medical power of attorney.
Financial Power of Attorney
The financial power of attorney grants authority over financial matters, allowing the appointed person (in this case, a spouse) to make decisions regarding banking, investments, and other monetary affairs. It’s like having a financial ally, making sure that bills get paid and financial matters stay afloat even in challenging times.
Medical Power of Attorney
The medical power of attorney grants the designated person the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of their spouse. In times of illness, surgery, or incapacity, having someone who knows your wishes and can advocate for your healthcare choices is invaluable.
When Would a Spouse Need Power of Attorney?
If you trust your spouse to make decisions on your behalf and want them to handle your affairs in unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury, or incapacity, having a power of attorney can help. A power of attorney is also necessary if you have children or dependents who rely on your financial support.
Without a designated power of attorney, your spouse may not access your bank accounts, pay your bills, or make health care decisions on your behalf. Additionally, they may find themselves navigating legal obstacles and facing challenges in making crucial decisions for their loved ones if necessary.
Does Marriage Grant Automatic Power of Attorney to Spouses?
Marriage doesn’t automatically grant spouses power of attorney. Even if you and your spouse share joint bank accounts and own property, you can’t assume that your spouse has the legal authority to decide on your behalf. If you want your spouse to have power of attorney, you may specify this in a legal document.
How to Make Your Spouse Power of Attorney
Getting power of attorney for your spouse involves some legal procedures. You can consult a legal professional to draft a legal document, making sure the document is legally sound and covers all necessary aspects.
Both partners need to specify the powers granted and the scope of authority, include all the details about the responsibilities and limits of the power of attorney, and get the document notarized. Once you’ve completed the document, keep a copy for yourself and give one to your spouse. In order to grant power of attorney, you also need to be mentally competent at the time.
Considerations When Granting a Spouse Power of Attorney
While the idea of formalizing power of attorney may seem daunting, it’s important to approach it as a form of future-proofing your partnership. Here are a few considerations for spouses:
- Discuss the possibility of power of attorney openly with your spouse. It’s a decision that requires mutual understanding and agreement. This conversation is an opportunity to express your wishes and make sure you both are on the same page.
- If your spouse is not the right person, choose a close friend, family member, or even a legal professional. Make sure you trust them implicitly and that they understand your values and preferences.
- Regularly review and update your power of attorney documents to reflect any changes in your life, whether it’s a new financial situation, a change in health, or any other significant event.
Planning for the Future
While a spouse doesn’t have power of attorney automatically, it’s ultimately up to the individual to decide whether to grant power of attorney to their spouse. Spouses can plan ahead to create a legal document that specifies their wishes.
If you have questions about transitioning a loved one to senior living, contact us at Fox Trail Memory Care for more information.