how to choose a power of attorney

2022-01-25

Who Should You Choose to Be Your Power of Attorney Agent?

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Getting your affairs in order doesn’t just secure your family’s future after your death. By appointing someone with power of attorney (POA), you can also protect your own future in the event of a serious illness. At Phelps LaClair, we want to help you design a well-rounded estate plan with a designated POA. Continue reading to learn more about how to choose a power of attorney agent who has your best interests at heart. 

What is power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the authority to make important decisions on your behalf. Designating a POA is an essential part of your estate plan—it ensures that your financial and legal affairs will be responsibly handled if you can no longer manage them yourself.

When you grant someone your power of attorney, they become your agent. Depending on the type of POA you grant and the language you choose to include in the document, you can give your agent the ability to make specific decisions that only relate to your medical care, your finances, or both

Who can be a power of attorney agent?

If you are over 18, you can choose any competent adult to be your power of attorney agent. Keep in mind that spouses do not automatically have power of attorney—you must create a POA document that names your spouse as your agent. Common power of attorney designations include:

  • Professionals such as an attorney or accountant
  • Family members such as a spouse or adult child
  • A close friend

How to Choose a Power of Attorney Agent: Five Qualities to Consider

1. Trustworthiness

Above all, the person you name in your POA document must be someone you trust to follow your exact wishes. This person should also be able to handle the pressures of making such important decisions. For instance, if you expect them to handle your finances, make sure they have proven to be capable of responsibly handling their own. 

2. Attention to Detail

The person making healthcare and legal decisions on your behalf should thoroughly understand your condition and your wishes. Is this person willing to extensively research your medical condition and ask relevant questions of your doctors? Your power of attorney agent should also be able to pay close attention to your finances in order to responsibly manage your financial assets and investments. 

3. Availability

The person you choose as your POA agent should live nearby so that they are available when needed. For instance, if you require emergency medical care, your power of attorney agent might need to be at the hospital to make medical decisions on your behalf. Your POA agent cannot properly ensure your wishes are being communicated and met if they’re unable to arrive at your hospital or care center quickly. 

4. Assertiveness

In the event that any of your family members choose to pressure your agent about making certain decisions that contradict your wishes, your agent should be someone who can stand up to them. An assertive power of attorney agent will be more likely to carry out your wishes and will not compromise. Consider the personality and character of the person you choose as your agent—will they be committed to fulfilling their role?

5. Knowledge of the Responsibilities

As with most estate planning conversations, it’s important to meet with your potential POA agent before you create the legal document. If someone unexpectedly receives power of attorney, they may not prove as trustworthy as you previously thought. Make sure to thoroughly explain the responsibilities they will need to uphold, answer all of their questions, and secure their agreement to act as your POA.

You also need to communicate your specific desires regarding certain treatments, resuscitation, which procedures you aren’t willing to undergo, etc. Medical care decisions can be difficult to make, and if your POA agent cannot respect every one of your wishes when it comes to your care, they aren’t the right person for the role. 

Plan for Your Future

For advice on how to choose the right power of attorney agent or help with creating a POA document, contact the experts at Phelps LaClair. We have over 40 years of experience in helping Arizona residents design and manage their estate plans. If you’re interested in including power of attorney in your estate plan or need to update an existing POA document, give us a call at 480-892-2488 to schedule a consultation.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/25/2022). Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

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