Can I refinance Mom's house to pay for care?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Does a power of attorney in SC have to make all the care and financial decisions and be fully responsible for finding ways to pay for care at an Alzheimer's care facility? If so, can I refinance her house to pay for care, since her monthly income pays only half of the cost?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com 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.

 To find out the answer to this question, you will have to do something that may seem a little distasteful: Make a close reading of the document that appointed you to act as the power of attorney.

 

One thing to be aware of from the getgo is that there are two types of power of attorney in South Carolina. The health care power of attorney generally authorizes the designated agent to make decisions about another person’s medical care—including the power to consent to or refuse particular treatments and procedures.

 

There is a particular form authorizing health care agents in North Carolina, but residents are also free to use some of their own language and tailor it to their own needs. So you need to check the specifics of your particular document.

 

Generally, however, a power of attorney for health care alone does not empower the agent to manage another person’s finances—or to buy and sell and refinance property on his or her behalf. For that, you would also need to be named the designated agent in a power of attorney for finances or would need to be given some other specific written authority to make these transactions.

 

Some of these powerful documents are phrased very mysteriously. If you study the wording on the document appointing you as agent and still are unsure whether you are empowered to refinance the house, consider consulting a local attorney experienced in elder law for the limited purpose of interpreting it.