Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What is a Power of Attorney for a Nursing Home Resident?

Family members of nursing home residents or hospital patients are often asked about who has "Power of Attorney" for the family member. Many people feel that because the resident or patient is their spouse or a member of their own family that they automatically have Power of Attorney. But that is not always the case. 

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a legal document that enables someone else to act on the family member's behalf over important decisions when they are unable to act on their own. The person appointed to handle the legal affairs or make decisions is called an “Agent.” There are few restrictions on who can become the Agent, but you typically want to choose a competent and trustworthy adult you know will always keep the loved one's best interests at heart. Often, people appoint a backup Agent—called a “Successor Agent”—in case the Agent is unable to carryout his or her duties.

The power granted to the Agent can start right away or start only when other conditions are met, such as mental or physical incapacitation. For example, some people decide to establish a POA when they show early signs of an illness that could lead to incapacitation. The POA could specify that the Agent’s powers only begin once a medical doctor has deemed you unable to make decisions on their own.

What Kind of Decisions Can the Person with Power of Attorney Make?

The "power" of the agent with power of attorneys depends on the type of power of attorney that is created. One of the most common types is a POA over healthcare decisions. This type of POA facilitates important medical decisions, often in emergency situations and towards the end of someone’s life. Another type of POA can limit an Agent’s role to managing property and financial affairs. For example, you can appoint someone to handle real estate, taxes, or business operations in the event that you suffer a devastating personal injury that renders you unable to handle those affairs yourself. There is also a type of POA where the Agent has the power to handle both healthcare decisions and financial matters.

Does Illinois Allow for Power of Attorney?

Every state recognizes some form of POA agreements. However, states sometimes have particular rules regarding the form, content, and validity of the agreements in certain situations. In Illinois it easy to obtain basic POAs through the Illinois Power of Attorney Act. This Act has basic forms for a POA over healthcare and a POA over property that are presumed valid when filled out properly.

If you or a loved one have been severely injured and need to invoke a Power of Attorney, the nursing home negligence and abuse attorneys at Keating Law Offices are here to help. Contact us today.