How do I get power of attorney after a stroke?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My father had a stroke and is now incapable of making any health or financial decisions for himself. Unfortunately, he did not set up a "power of attorney" before this happened. How can I set up one now? Are there any organizations that can help me set up "power of attorney" for free or for very minimal fees?

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.

Even though your father has suffered a stroke, you may still be able to obtain a power of attorney for him if he has the legal capacity to order one. In the eyes of the law, this means he must understand the nature, scope and effect of the document.

Many people who have had strokes have some temporary or permanent physical limitations, but their minds and their legal capacity remain intact. The laws in all states allow another person to sign to finalize the document as long as the person for whom it is made has the required legal capacity.

Finding and completing the paperwork you need should not be expensive or difficult. You should be able to get a power of attorney form free from a local hospital"”or any other healthcare provider attending to him.

However, if your father truly lacks the required mental capacity to finalize the document, it will not be possible for you to get a power of attorney for either his healthcare or his finances. Instead, you may then need to get a conservatorship, which will give a person the legal right to manage his money and remaining property.

If this becomes necessary, your first best source to consult for help is the local probate court. Many of them have good self-help centers or advisers available to help walk you through the procedure. To find out your local procedures, do an Internet search of "probate court" and your father's city or county.