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How to broach the difficult subject of Power of Attorney with your family?

Power of Attorney (POA) gives the legal authority to act and make decisions on someone else’s behalf, and is a difficult subject to bring up with family members. It is, however, important such matters are discussed between families and the necessary paperwork put in place before the need arises.

Choosing the right time

It’s important to approach the delicate subject of Power of Attorney at the right time. Try to have such conversations during calm times in which people are relaxed and nobody is under any stress. Family gatherings or holidays might be a good time to bring up this issue when people are generally not preoccupied with work or other matters and are more relaxed.

Discuss POA with siblings and other family member first

Before you raise the issue with an elderly parent, discuss POA with siblings, cousins or other close family members prior to having the conversation with an elderly parent or other family member whom you are concerned about their health and their deteriorating wellbeing.

When discussing the subject with siblings, attempt to come to some agreement on key issues before raising the topic with an elderly parent. Key issues discussed, and hopefully agreed on, should ideally be related to health, living arrangements, management of finances and paperwork. Try to discuss with siblings what the different options are and how they might work.

Broaching the subject with the individual requiring POA

When the family has spoken calmly about POA and are in agreement on the different options and how they might work, gently approach the subject with the individual who the POA concerns.  It is important to talk tactfully about the subject and listen to your elderly parent or other family member’s views and ideas about the issue.

Carrying out prior researching and discussions about POA will mean you can discuss the subject in a more informed and knowledgeable way.

Your parent may have ideas of their own about the subject and any suggestions they make should be listened to and considered. The individual may want to time think about the topics raised and you should try to avoid making them feel under any pressure to make any rash decisions.

Manage change gradually

Change is difficult for all of us to come to terms with and should ideally be managed gradually. When broaching the subject of POA with the family, timescales should be considered. Generally speaking, the changes made to issues such as giving help at home, living arrangements and the handing over of financial responsibilities, should be managed gradually, to help the family come to terms with such difficult changes.

Discuss which type of POA may be required

As there are essentially two types of POA, health and finance, and any discussions around the subject should determine which type of POA is required, or if they are both required. It may be a good idea when talking about POA with the family to discuss which family member should take responsibility of which roles.

Joint Power of Attorney

To help avoid sibling conflict, it may also be wise to raise the subject of having joint POA with siblings, so more than one sibling has the legal power to make decisions related to the health and finances.

North Yorkshire Law

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to North Yorkshire Law directly.

Published on 18th May 2017
(Last updated 21st March 2018)

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