My mom needs a power of attorney …

Not in the form of a question, but we hear it a lot. When can you get a power of attorney for someone? Before the person loses capacity. Powers of attorney must be signed by the principal (the subject of the document) and only when the person has legal capacity. If mom has a stroke and isn’t able to make decisions, it’s too late. While the law sets out a hierarchy of people who can make medical decisions, there is no such default for property powers of attorney; those must be signed by the principal.

While you might have good intentions, helping mom sign a power of attorney when she doesn’t understand or have the capacity to understand puts you at risk of committing a crime, including fraud and elder abuse. If mom lacks capacity, consult an attorney about guardianship.

If mom needs a power of attorney and has capacity to sign it, an attorney will meet with her to verify who she wants as agent and to go over the agent’s duties. The attorney will prepare the power of attorney and then help mom sign it before a notary.

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