You did everything right. You had a power of attorney created for your aging loved one, and even had the loved one sign it. Everything was supposed to be handled, and then it happened. The day came that you needed to place your loved one in an Alabama nursing home, but the nursing home is not honoring your power of attorney. If this describes a familiar situation, you are not alone. Thousands of nursing home residents throughout the state do not have valid powers of attorney. When this happens, it can be frustrating and intimidating, but there is good news. You can still accomplish your goal of protecting and caring for a loved one, even if the power of attorney is not sufficient.
What is a Power of Attorney?
First, it is important to understand the values and limitations of powers of attorney. These are simply legal documents that act somewhat like contracts. One person gives another person the right to make specific decisions for them, in the event they can not do so. A durable power of attorney is designed to last until death and provide an ongoing and uninterrupted ability to make certain decisions for someone else. The most common types of decisions included in an Alabama power of attorney are:
- Financial decisions
- Real estate decisions
- Medical treatment choices
- Obtaining medical records
- Talking to doctors about the person’s healthcare
Of course, powers of attorney can also limit these powers. Some people might want to give a loved one the right to make some healthcare decisions for them, but they may want to limit that power in some way.
Is the Power of Attorney Valid?
According to Section 26-1A-105 of the Alabama Code, a power of attorney is “presumed” to be valid if:
The principle signs it or directs another to sign it in the presence of a notary public. The principle must acknowledge signature before the notary. In addition to these basic formalities, the principle must be competent to create a power of attorney. While competence is presumed, it can be challenged. If someone learns that the individual signing the document lacked mental capacity to do so, they could bring a court action to invalidate the power of attorney, especially if it was fraudulently created or made through some form of undue influence or coercion.
Why a Nursing Home Might Refuse to Accept a Power of Attorney
While a power of attorney may be valid based on proper formalities, there are numerous reasons why a healthcare provider, including a nursing home, may not accept it or wish to honor it. These may include:
- The document does not specifically authorize health providers to speak with the agent
- The document only covers financial decisions
- The document only covers healthcare (and not financial matters)
- There are specific exclusions listed in the power of attorney
- There are suspicions of abuse or neglect
- The nursing home suspects the person lacked the ability to make the power of attorney
What to do When a Health Provider Refuses to Honor a Power of Attorney
There are several options. First, you can attempt to file legal actions to enforce the power of attorney. Of course, these are often quite costly and may just lead to lengthy litigation. On the other hand, if the power of attorney is not working, you can also petition a court for a guardianship or conservatorship. If successful, you will receive a court order, granting you the right to make certain decisions for your loved one.
To get help with this process, call Five Points Law Group today.