If you are considering creating an estate plan, one of the key legal documents you’ll need is a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney can help manage your finances, assist with legal transactions, and even help make decisions regarding your medical care. Choosing the right Power of Attorney is a vital decision. In today’s blog, we’re discussing the responsibilities of a Power of Attorney and how to select the right one for you.
What is a Power of Attorney?
In general, there are two different types of Power of Attorney. The first is a Financial Power of Attorney, who acts on someone else’s behalf in case of their incapacity or disability. A Power of Attorney can help manage someone’s financial affairs, including bank accounts, credit cards, investments, debt collection, digital assets, and other matters. They can also help with legal issues, such as filing taxes, applying for public benefits (ex: Medicaid, Veteran’s benefits), or supervising real estate transactions.
A Power of Attorney is only valid during an individual’s lifetime. Once that individual passes away, the power to make legal or financial decisions goes to their personal representative or executor. It’s also important to note that a Financial Power of Attorney doesn’t take over someone’s financial and legal rights; they just assist with those tasks and responsibilities.
A Medical Power of Attorney, also known as a Medical Decisionmaker, is the person authorized to act on someone’s behalf if they are injured or too sick to consent to medical treatment for themselves. A Medical Power of Attorney can help make decisions about what medical care the individual will receive, what doctors or care providers will treat them, and advanced care such as long-term living facilities, food, and bathing. An individual names their Medical Power of Attorney as part of their Advance Directive for Health Care.
What Characteristics Should You Look For in a Power of Attorney?
It’s pretty common for people to choose their spouse, family member, or close friend as their Power of Attorney. But you can select whomever you want. An ideal Power of Attorney should be the person who will look out for your best interests. You want them to be responsible, financially savvy, respectful of your wishes, and comfortable making tough decisions or having difficult conversations. Here are some additional factors to consider when selecting your Power of Attorney:
– Trustworthy: Serving as someone’s Power of Attorney is a significant responsibility. They may be responsible for your financial security. You want someone dependable, discreet, and who is comfortable speaking on your behalf.
– Local: While this isn’t a necessity, it can be useful to have a Power of Attorney who lives nearby. They can access your accounts quickly, and if there’s a medical emergency, they can quickly get to your preferred doctor or hospital.
– Professional/Industry Knowledge: If you want to name someone as your Financial Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney, it’s a good idea to select someone with financial savvy or a basic understanding of medical processes. Your Power of Attorney will be making decisions on your behalf; they should be comfortable asking questions, researching situations, and making choices in your best interest.
–Assertive and Articulate: A Power of Attorney should not be influenced by stressful situations or emotional family members. They need to be able to stand their ground and
not fold under pressure. They should be comfortable communicating your wishes clearly and unwaveringly.
-Willing to Serve: Being a Power of Attorney is a serious and sometimes demanding or stressful responsibility. Not everyone will be the right fit. Before you name a Power of Attorney in your estate plan, make sure they understand the role and are willing to serve, should the occasion arise.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates
If you are seriously injured or ill, you’ll need someone to step in and help with your finances and medical decisions. A Power of Attorney can help maintain your lifestyle and communicate your wishes when you are otherwise unable to do so. If you have questions about the roles and responsibilities of a Power of Attorney, or if you’d like to schedule an estate planning consultation, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact page. Our estate planning team would be happy to help.