What to Look for in a Potential Power of Attorney

A power of attorney document allows you to give someone the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. The person you name in these documents will be considered your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” and the decisions they make for you will be treated as if you had made them. 

That is why choosing the right person to be your agent when planning your estate is crucial. You must trust that your agent is trustworthy and responsible enough to make decisions according to your best interests. 

The Responsibilities Granted by Power of Attorney

You can use a power of attorney document to grant someone the right to make financial, legal, or medical decisions on your behalf. These powers may be limited or general. Limited powers mean your attorney-in-fact can only act for you in specific circumstances, while general powers grant a broad range of rights. 

For example, you can grant someone only the right to make medical decisions for you or to cash checks on your behalf. You can also give them the right to make a wide range of financial, legal, and medical choices for you. You may even grant different people different rights as your agents. These documents are flexible, so you can structure them to fit your unique preferences.

Regardless of what powers you grant your agent, they have several fundamental responsibilities:

  • Understand the gravity of their role: The person you choose should know the trust you place in them by naming them your agent. They need to be prepared to take on the responsibility to make decisions on your behalf and to treat their new role with all due respect.
  • Know your wishes: Your agent should understand what you want should you be incapacitated. This may be accomplished by talking to them about your preferences in-depth or providing them with a comprehensive instruction document such as an advanced health directive.
  • Act in your best interests: Finally, your agent should be someone you trust to act in your best interests, even if it is difficult, stressful, or not going to benefit them. 

Signs of a Good Potential Power of Attorney

When choosing your attorney-in-fact, you should carefully consider their fundamental responsibilities. You may already have an idea of who may be a good fit for the role. If not, you can think about people in your life who demonstrate the following traits:

  • Loyalty: An attorney-in-fact should be someone loyal to you. They should care about you and your best interests and be willing to put you first over their own interests or those of others who may benefit from using your estate in ways you would not want. 
  • Reliability: They should be someone you trust to respond to and handle ongoing tasks for your medical, legal, or financial concerns. Even the most loyal person will not make a good agent if they cannot handle the tasks reliably.
  • Tenacity: In some cases, your attorney-in-fact may need to work hard on your behalf to ensure your wishes are followed, making tenacity a valuable trait for your chosen agent.
  • Clarity: To carry out your wishes, your agent needs to both understand what you want and be able to communicate that with others. Clear and articulate communication skills can make this significantly easier. 
  • Locality: Many tasks an agent is expected to perform may require them to appear in person. If they live across the country, this expectation can pose a significant hardship to them. If possible, it’s best to choose someone who lives nearby, so they don’t have to travel long distances to fulfill their duties. 

Draft Power of Attorney Documents With Confidence

Power of attorney paperwork can play an essential role in your estate plan. Choosing the right person ensures that your wishes will be respected and carried out even if you are incapacitated. If you have questions or concerns about drafting power of attorney documents, you can reach out to the expert attorneys at The Dayton Law Firm, P.C. Our team has decades of experience helping clients like you choose agents and draft powers of attorney that will support your overall estate plan. Call 408-758-5750 or reach out online to schedule your consultation today.