An Unexpected Scenario & The Durable Power of Attorney

Jim was fiercely independent. He lived in his own apartment. He paid his own bills online. And within two hours, he even fired the aide his daughters had hired to help him.

Still, his family was prepared should Jim’s health or mental sharpness take a turn for the worse. They had a Durable Power of Attorney. They had a spreadsheet with all of his accounts, user names, and passwords. They had a plan.

So when a COPD episode set Jim back, his daughters began to take on additional responsibilities. While visiting Jim’s apartment, Patty discovered her dad had been missing some bills. She logged into his accounts without a hitch and began taking care of matters, and figured she could finish up at home.

But when Patty tried to log into her dad’s accounts from her own house, the websites recognized the change in location and posed security questions. “What was the name of your first barber?” a website demanded. Well, when Jim set up that question, he had no problem remembering his first barber. But now, his memory was too fuzzy.

Patty called the bank. The Durable Power of Attorney didn’t help over the phone or by email. She needed to visit a branch location or send a hard copy by mail. She eventually got the situation straightened out, but it was a huge headache.

“And we thought we were prepared,” she lamented.

It’s not uncommon for situations like this to catch people off guard. For many, managing someone else’s affairs is an entirely new experience. But at Delaware Hospice, we’ve been supporting family caregivers since 1982. And we’ve learned a lot along the way.

First and foremost, we know that planning ahead is critical — even if you can’t anticipate every scenario. The road is much more difficult once someone’s mental capacity begins to fail or they become unable to communicate their wishes.

Jim was wise to have a Durable Power of Attorney in place. Even though it didn’t immediately solve problem, it’s an essential tool if you’ll be managing your loved one’s affairs.

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Here’s what you need to know about a Durable Power of Attorney:

Be sure you have a DURABLE Power of Attorney. In Delaware, you need to ensure that you have a DURABLE Power of Attorney. Unlike a standard Power of Attorney, this will stay valid if your loved one becomes incapacitated.

Be prepared to present hard copies of legal documents. Banks are all different; we recommend calling ahead to understand what’s required. If you live out of town or travel frequently, all the more reason to be proactive about making necessary arrangements when possible. That way, you’re not caught off guard if you can’t go in person or don’t have time for the mail.

Know that a Durable Power of Attorney does not survive death. Once someone has died, any permissions they’ve given you also cease. Even if you were managing your loved one’s finances while they were living, you no longer that authority unless you are also the executor/executrix of the estate.

There are many factors to consider when planning ahead. Delaware Transitions can help you navigate the waters. We’re always here with free non-medical support for individuals and their families living with serious illness. For more information, call 800-838-9800 or visit

This information isn’t a suitable substitute for professional, medical, or legal advice.

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