What to Know as POA for Multiple Family Members

family members discuss POA wishesAre you prepared medically and financially if something unfortunate happens to you and you could not make a critical decision for yourself? What about a parent, spouse, or adult child? Why wait a moment longer? Get your POA (power of attorney) in order now!

I am not an attorney, a financial advisor, a wealth advisor, or an estate planner. What I am, however, is a mother, a daughter, a partner, a sister, and a grandmother. I’m also the power of attorney (POA) for 5 family members.

I recently attended a workshop entitled, Aging in America,  in which financial and legal issues for family members and caregivers were addressed. Individuals of all ages tend to wait until an unfortunate event to begin thinking about ‘what ifs’. Furthermore, many family members ignore reality and postpone taking action, as it happened with my family. Due to the cost and time-consuming options available after the fact, it is advised we obtain, at a minimum, a financial and medical durable power of attorney now.

This seems easy enough but the challenge is to get everyone onboard. According to AARP, the following age groups lack a will or other estate planning documents:

  • 19% of those 72+
  • 42% of Boomers (ages 53 to 71)
  • 64% of Gen Xers (ages 37 to 52)
  • 78% of Millennials (ages 18 to 36)

Regardless of where you or your loved ones fit into the family tree, it is vital to initiate the conversation to spare cost, delay, and emotional stress. Use these prompts to start the conversation.

The family talk

First of all, let your family know that it’s important to establish their powers of attorney. Ask them how theyman in therapy after debilitating injury want their decisions handled should they become incapacitated. Use current events, a terminal illness, death, or this article to start the discussion. Providing free POA forms (see Where to Find Documents) can help move the process forward. Your goal isn’t to frighten them, but to ensure they are protected financially and medically. As a result, you may have more success taking this approach.

Address the facts

Because each of us must choose an agent to handle our requests, it’s important this person is:

  • Up to the task
  • Readily available
  • Willing to meet the needs of the individual
  • Trustworthy and reliable
  • Able to make decisions while dealing with their own emotions

Choosing an Agent

  • If the medical POA and financial POA are different people, ensure that they will work well together.
  • Review the POA with the family member every 3 to 5 years. Sometimes a listed agent becomes unwilling, unable, or estranged from the family member. Furthermore, a periodic review will ensure that the documents are up to date and the agent(s) wish to continue their duties.

Where to Find Documents

The documents are easy to create, but requires each individual to make their wishes known and to name their agents. Contact an estate planning attorney or search online for medical or financial POA forms within your state. There are many free and paying sites available, or you can contact a local attorney to create the forms for you.

The Agent

  • As the agent, keep the documents (preferably 2 original copies) in a safe, readily available location.
  • Additionally, if you are the agent for several people, keep all records in the same safe place. Let your principles (the people who named you as POA) know where you have their documents but also let your agents know the location.
  • Be the one to follow up every 3 to 5 years with each principal. People forget, life changes fast, and people come and go. You may wish to be removed as the agent for unknown reasons.

While we all want to live a long, healthy life, things happen. Be the proactive family member and start the process. Taking the extra measure to protect the desires of your loved ones and your own will help make the tough decisions easier.

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Opportunity or Despair: How Do You Respond to Change?

One moment, I’m doing F.A.I.R. with business and then the next moment, my two biggest clients lose funding and cannot extend my contract.

These things happen, I tell myself. It’s a normal cycle as a freelancer. Just buckle down, regroup, and reach out. I’m good at what I do and there are plenty of opportunities out there.

That’s what I told myself—repeatedly—as the weeks flew by and no new clients accepted my proposals.

By July, half my client income was missing. The bills were more painful to pay. I reexamined my expenses and cut the fat from a budget that was already anorexic. The fears and doubts seeped into my brain, but I believed in myself.

Besides, what else was there to do? Cuss? Cry? Quit? I’m 53 and seeking employment elsewhere is more challenging.

Then on July 26th, I got the word that a third client had to postpone our contract until further notice.

“As soon as things change, Kris, I’ll get right back to you.”

As those words flowed from his lips, I wondered if it was as painful for him to say them as it was for me to hear them. The call ended on a pleasant note, but I’m certain neither of us were in a pleasant mood.

Winners never quit and quitters never win. –Vince Lombardi

While the desire to cuss and cry intensified, I clung to a thin thread of positivity. I KNEW there was light at the other end. I just couldn’t see it. That night, I stepped into the darkness to consult the Universe:

“It’s time for a change. Where am I going next?”

I failed to recognize that change had already occurred, yet stubbornly pursued the status quo. I had two strong leads that were ready to start in August. The time frame was tight, but I reminded myself that I will be fine.

Then within 20 minutes of each other on July 31, I received emails from both leads. The first said their business direction has changed and they needed time to reevaluate their goals. The second said they wanted to shop for similar services.

Funny how that happened on the eve of August. Except I wasn’t laughing. I cussed, cried and considered quitting.

I slept poorly and had bizarre dreams. Then I woke up exhausted yet with a new realization: change pursued me. It was time for me to act rather than react.

Although my emails and calls were expertly crafted, using optimistic words like ‘rebrand opportunity’ and ‘a new direction’, I could read between my own lines. I was still ashamed. And now I’m asking parents, my partner, and my network for help—at my age!

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. –John Donne

Lesson (reluctantly) learned

Accept and be grateful! I had several friends and family remind me of what I had already done for them and they were grateful to return the generosity to me.

Additional lessons learned:

Coping mechanisms

  • Remain positive. This is not the end; it’s a new beginning!
  • Seek the opportunities that arise during the storm.
  • Don’t let the storm stall you—lean in and surge forward.
  • Vent your frustrations. A little cussing and crying is acceptable; avoid letting it deprive you of sleep, nourishment, or self-care.
  • Call on your support team for help, love, & assistance.

Next steps

  • Determine what can be condensed or put on hold. As with the client that had to delay our working together, I had to pass on the same sentiments to my virtual assistant. The trickle-down effect touched at least 3 households.

Results

Although the recent events APPEARED dark, I now have renewed enthusiasm and a positive outlook as I continue to evolve. My support group and recent discoveries helped create a better, stronger plan.

Insights

Change changed me. While I fought for the status quo, I emerged with the knowledge that I have the creative power and energy to generate something better for myself.

I willingly accept!

How will you emerge on the other side of change?

Kristen Edens

Tempted to Co-Sign a Student Loan? Offer these Options Instead

Keeping the money on the table--alternatives to co-signingI’m always unsure how to respond when my daughter calls or texts me. Sometimes she vents about her work, her boyfriend, or her daughter. Sometimes it’s about the unfairness of life. Often times, it’s about money—and if I can “lend” her a couple hundred. The most recent call was to ask if I would co-sign on a student loan.

Following my shocked silence, she continued to tug my heartstrings about her limited budget, costs of school supplies, clothing, and day care. For additional oomph she added, “and I’m not scheduled enough hours this week” into her plight. It’s no good to toss in my own anorexic budget because it falls on deaf ears. Besides, I want to help!

However, it just isn’t possible. According to a 2014 study by the United States Government Accountability Office, nearly 40% of federal student loan debt belongs to those over 65, whether their own debt or that of an adult child. Adding to the complications are our own struggles with eliminating debt, lowered income, caregiving costs, and perhaps that same adult child living at home.

So how can we avoid additional debt and/or risk while becoming the hero? Consider one or a combination of these ideas:

Co Sign Alternatives: Big Help. Low Risk.

Buy books: text books are a huge expense for college students.  Offer to cover these costs and take on the hassle of ordering, renting, shipping, and more. There are several text book rental sites available offering significant discounts.

Pay for a tutor: once your adult child has plunked down hundreds of dollars for a single course, it’s critical she passes! If your student starts to express concerns, suggest a tutor immediately and offer to pay. You don’t want your child to have to pay—or repeat—any class, especially with today’s tuition costs.

Offer to tutor: some coursework is basic (intro to math, English, science, history, etc,) so if your student needs help, offer to tutor. This can be done in person (if local to your child and her school), or virtually. Either option saves time, money, and highlights you as the lifesaver.

Become a student’s helper: offer to care for grandchildren in the evening, clean house, fix meals, handle sick children, walk the dog, and so forth. Offer the stressed student time off and gift your child with a gift certificate for a dinner and movie. Maybe offer a birthday gift certificate to a baseball game, a massage, or something special.

If you live out of town: many of the ideas and services above can be handled long-distance. If you are unable to help locally, search online for mother’s helpers, dog walkers, house keepers, and other needed tasks. These services are available at a reasonable fee and offer a win-win for you, your adult child, and the business owner.

An added bonus: with entrepreneurialism a hot activity for Boomers and GenXers, you can offer similar services to out of state students.

We love and want to help our children through their life journey, but co-signing loans adds an element of debt and risk few want to encounter. Implement these tips to help your adult child avoid deep debt with these ideas and be the lifesaver!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better