One of the duties for caregivers of elderly parents or adult children with disabilities or special needs may be power of attorney. Obtaining power of attorney for a loved one involves a process designed to safeguard vulnerable citizens who are unable to manage their finances. That’s a good thing.
But even after those who have the best interest of their loved ones at heart are designated power of attorney, obstacles and hassles often pop up. I’ve been my mother’s power of attorney since 2008. But last month, 10 years after I took over her financial affairs and sent properly notarized documents to financial and legal institutions, one of those obstacles arose. It was not fun.
In the wake of what turned into a two week ordeal, I devised 4 simple tips to avoid power of attorney hassles in the future. By employing them, your caregiving duties will be less stressful and more efficient.
Tip #1: Collect Contact Information
Power of attorney duties are much easier if their contact information is at your fingertips. You can organize them in a binder, in the contact feature on your computer or phone, or in a tool like The Caregiver’s Notebook. Having the information in one place makes the second tip easier to complete.
Tip #2: Check in Annually
Some financial institutions (annuities, insurance companies, investment companies, retirement accounts, etc.) require an affidavit every two or three years to verify that the power of attorney is up to date. Therefore, it’s wise to annually contact the institutions where your loved one has accounts to see if that time has come. If it has, take care of it immediately. The affidavit may need to be notarized, which can be done at your bank. Your bank will also be able to fax the document for you.
Tip #3: Start Early
When you need to initiate a financial transaction, such as a withdrawal or transfer of funds to a different investment vehicle, begin the process early. Financial institutions are often loathe to part with your loved one’s funds and may stretch out the process by requiring documents like a letter from a physician, a renewal affidavit, or updated information regarding automatic deposits. By starting the process early, you are more likely to complete the transaction on time.
Tip #4: Log Everything
Have a pen and paper handy every time you call a financial institution on behalf of your loved one. Write down the date, time, number called, name of the person who answers, the question you ask, and the answer you are given. The Caregiver Notebook provides pages for doing that in the insurance section and offers more tips for dealing with institutions that may or may not be cooperative. Having this information recorded provides documentation in case you need to enlist a government agency or lawyer to access your loved one’s funds.
These 4 tips to avoid power of attorney hassles can streamline management of your loved one’s finances, whether you are just stepping into those duties or have been fulfilling them for years. If you have other tips to avoid power of attorney hassles, leave them in the comment box.