If your Non-English-speaking parents live in the United States or are planning on an extended visit, they will need someone they trust to be appointed as their Agent in order to act and speak on their behalf. The lack of proficiency in English can create significant barriers when conducting everyday financial and healthcare affairs. Most financial documents are available only in English and individuals with limited English proficiency can face challenges completing account applications, understanding contracts, and resolving problems, such as erroneous bills. They also face challenges when making appointments with their healthcare providers or understanding what their doctors are telling them.
In the United States, if a person is unable to handle their own financial affairs and/or healthcare needs, a court order granting Conservatorship/Guardianship is required. However, a court proceeding can be avoided through proper planning. One way to do that is by having a well-drafted Power of Attorney in place. A Durable Power of Attorney delegates to an agent the power to make financial transactions and healthcare decisions on behalf of an individual if he/she is unable to do so themselves. These transactions are not subject to court review. Powers of attorney can cover almost any decisions your parents would have to make: financial deals, gifts, assets management, health care, treatment, etc.… Setting up a power of attorney is fairly simple, and it can save you from future complications.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a document, signed by a competent adult called “the principal,” that grants a trusted individual the power to make decisions on their behalf if the principal is unable to. The person designated to act in the principal’s best interest is called “the Agent.” It is the Agent’s job to make sure the principal is well cared for. There are two types of Power of Attorneys. One is a Durable Power of Attorney which grants an Agent the power to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the Principal. The second is a Healthcare Power of Attorney which allows the Agent to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the Principal. The Healthcare Agent can also have access to medical records and bills of the Principal. The same Agent can be designated as the Healthcare Agent and the Financial Agent, however, it is not required that they be the same person.
Being your parent’s child does not automatically give you the power to act and speak on their behalf. You need the legal right to manage their financial affairs and healthcare needs. A Power of Attorney must be signed in front of a notary and two uninterested witnesses. Your parent/loved one must be competent and understand what they are signing in order for the Power of Attorney to be legitimate.
What Can an Agent do on behalf of the Principal?
A healthcare agent can decide:
- What medical care the principal receives, including hospital care, surgery, psychiatric treatment, home health care, etc. (These choices are dependent on the financial means of the principal and the approval of their financial agent.)
- Which doctors and care providers the principal uses.
- What the principal eats.
- Who bathes the principal.
A financial agent can:
- Access the principal’s financial accounts to pay for health care, housing needs and other bills.
- File taxes on behalf of the principal.
- Make investment decisions on behalf of the principal.
- Collect the principal’s debts.
- Manage the principal’s property.
- Apply for public benefits for the principal, such as Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc.
Power of Attorney documents are necessary for everyone and this is especially true for those who cannot act on their own behalf. Having someone they trust to make these types of decisions gives everyone peace of mind. The time to execute a power of attorney is now. One should not wait until a crisis occurs before planning.
At Mid-America Law Practice, LLC we are sensitive to the needs of the immigrant population. We understand the difficulties non-English speakers face everyday and how to plan ahead. We also have an Arabic speaking Attorney and an Urdu speaking attorney in our office.