Do I need to get power of attorney for my husband if my name is on our checking account

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband is in the next to last stages of dementia alzheimers. I have been reading other caregivers stories and tips in and they talk about power of attorney. We live in a mobile home, his vehicle is in both our names, and mine is in my name only. Our checking account is listed as my name or his name. We don't have any other types of assets. Is there any reason I should get a power of attorney. His mother didn't in 1978. We are simple poor people. I handle all the bills so there is not conflict there. He has osteoarthritis and is unable to ride or sit at length if I had to have him to get the power of attorney. He would say he didn't need one. He is losing more of his reasoning.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Powers of attorney can be godsends for many, but you may be in one of those rare circumstances where you would gain very little from one.

If the car and the money in your checking account are your biggest concerns, and you have already set them up as joint ownership or pay on death"ā€¯meaning that you are automatically entitled to the balance of the account and the car at death, then you are likely in good shape as far as planning for the future.

It may be worth your peace of mind to doublecheck on that: Call the bank and make sure it is a true joint account and check the car title to be sure you are true joint owners. In both cases, be sure to get clear on whether you would become the sole owner should your husband predecease you.

Other documents called powers of attorney for healthcare or advance directives are also used to make sure that an agent is appointed to supervise or enforce another person's wishes for medical care. You might also check with your husband's doctor to make sure this situation is covered.

Another reality: The law requires that a person must have a certain "mental capacity" to finalize a power of attorney. In shorthand, he or she must be able to understand the document and what it means. If your husband's condition has progressed to the point where he lacks this capacity, then it may not be possible for him to make a power of attorney, anyway.