I am convinced that one reason clients can hesitate when deciding whether to appoint an agent under Power of Attorney is the fear of losing control. That fear can be aggravated on realizing that most Powers of Attorney today take effect after signing both by the person giving the power and the one receiving it. In the past “springing powers” that only take effect on certification by a doctor were more common. Today banks and financial institutions are more likely to want an immediate power.
True, the Acknowledgement required to be executed by the person receiving the power confirms that he or she will act responsibly and in the best interest of the person who appoints. Also he or she will act in accordance with that person’s “reasonable expectations.” They have to look out for you. But there are also other ways to improve your chances that the relationship will work well and express your wishes even if you were to become incapacitated.
Here are some ideas how to keep you in the “driver’s seat” when designating an Agent under Power of Attorney.
You should not choose your Agent based only on whether that person is your oldest child or whether there would be hurt feelings. If your Agent is experiencing money problems herself or himself this might not be the time to appoint since the stress could be too great.
You could have more than one Agent although that practice might be frowned upon by banks. Consider whether a Successor Agent would be better and also reasonably whether your Agents could work together.
Finally, although this goes further than Power of Attorney advice, you should be careful about who has access to your debit cards, credit cards, user names and passwords, and online access to your bank and investment accounts. The same rules regarding trustworthiness apply. Get help if needed.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.