When you create a power of attorney, you choose an “agent” to act on your behalf. The person you choose to be your agent or attorney-in-fact assumes certain duties and responsibilities. The most important obligation of the agent is to act in your best interest. This means that he or she must always do as you ask. The agent is there to make important decisions and act with the highest degree of good faith on your behalf.
Even though your agent is expected to make decisions with your best interest at heart, and use your money and property only for your benefit, he or she also possesses plenty of freedom to do as he or she pleases. Therefore, it is essential to choose an agent whom you trust when you sign a power of attorney document.
Before selecting an agent or attorney-in-fact, you may want to ask yourself the following key questions:
• Do I trust this person?
• Does this person have my best interest at heart?
• Is this person willing to put in the time and effort it takes to handle my affairs?
• Will he or she follow my wishes if I am ever unable to make decisions for myself?
• Is this person someone who can visit me on a regular basis?
• Is this person responsible?
• Is this person someone who knows enough about finances to make the right decisions?
An agent must keep your money separate from his or her own. He or she must not be personally vested in or stand to profit from transaction. An agent is required to keep separate and accurate records regarding all transactions he or shse engages in for your benefit.
Furthermore, an agent is not allowed to give away or transfer any of your money, personal property or real estate to his or her own name unless the power of attorney contains specific authority to do so. If you want your agent to have that type of authority, you will need to ask a private attorney to draft a power of attorney document for you. Most people with property (such as a house or a land), savings (such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit) and income (such as salary, pension, Social Security benefits) should seek the advice of a private attorney to draft a power of attorney document.
Granting someone power of attorney is a weighty decision. And, as such, should not be taken lightly. Take your time and consider all of the key points mentioned above. The most important thing to remember about choosing an agent is that they are there to act on your behalf. Power of attorney does not mean you are giving away your power. It simply means that you are letting an individual use your power for you. Make sure that you choose someone who is not only responsible, but someone who is also willing to reach out to others for help if they cannot handle your affairs on their own.