What do we have to do for me to be able to make decisions while I am there, serving as the "alternate" POA?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister has Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney for our dad. I am named as the alternate. Our 93 year old father is in the hospital and not doing well. My sister lives in Oklahoma, I live in New York, and our dad is in Florida. My sister is working and cannot go to Florida; however, I am available to go. What do we have to do for me to be able to make decisions while I am there, serving as the "alternate" POA?

Expert Answer

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

The primary place to go to for guidance as to your authority as an alternate agent under the Durable Power of Attorney is the document itself.   The authority of an alternate agent can vary tremendously from document to document.   Your father's particular Durable Power of Attorney will indicate under what circumstances you can act in place of your sister.  It is difficult to give precise information to you without seeing the actual Durable Power of Attorney, but often there would be a provision empowering you to be able to act if your sister is unwilling or unable to act.  In that case you would need written certification of that fact.  In any event, your best course of action would be to contact the lawyer who drafted the Durable Power of Attorney for assistance in creating the proper documentation to authorize your acting through the Durable Power of Attorney.