Power of Attorney

One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was power of attorney.

I know, it doesn’t sound particularly romantic, or fun, or even special, but I can tell you that it was incredibly pragmatic and saved me no end of trouble when I finally needed it.

I’m an only child. What that means is that as my parents grew older I (with my wife, of course) took on the responsibility for their care and well-being.

My father’s decline into dementia was gradual, as it is for most who suffer from Alzheimer’s. My mom increasingly took the burden of caring for him, as well as all of the day-to-day administrivia that fill our lives and households. Unfortunately her decline due to illness was much more sudden, happening over the course of a few months.

I found myself taking on responsibility for their care, but that day-to-day work as well. The care, their health, their decline — it was all painful, as you might expect. One thing that was not, however, was the administrivia. They’d seen to that years before by drafting power of attorney (POA) naming me their representative.

The key, and what my gratitude stems from, is that the POA was unconditional and immediate. There was no language specifying that they had to be found incompetent, or that it only took effect after some other set pre-conditions. This type of unrestricted POA is uncommon, since it opens doors for abuse. That’s something that would simply never occur to me, and they knew it.

I was their only child: who else would they give that power to? And they trusted me, completely. The result was a very simple, and unconditional, power of attorney.

It made dealing with banks and utilities and many others significantly easier when the need arose. There was simply no question, no delay, and no additional stress at what was, for so many other reasons, an incredibly stressful time.

I can’t recommend an unconditional power of attorney — as I said, it’s ripe for abuse if the enormous trust it conveys is broken.

But still, I’m grateful that my parents placed that level of trust in me.