What to Consider When Selecting a Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney is a legal document that essentially states that the person you name (also often referred to as a Power of Attorney but legally often called the Principal or Attorney-in-Fact) has your full authority to make decisions on your behalf. The Principal can sign contracts, sell your possessions, make financial transactions, and even make decisions about your health if you are unable to. While some people do create a separate Power of Attorney specifically for healthcare decisions, you can combine these two documents in one. Either way, these documents are an important part of your estate planning.

Because your Principal has so much legal power, you need to very carefully determine who you want to invest that power in. While a Power of Attorney document typically only comes into play when you are incapacitated, you do want to have full confidence in the person or people you give this authority to. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding who should have your Power of Attorney.

Do You Give One Person this Responsibility?

One of the first things you should consider is whether you want to have one designated Power of Attorney or if you want to separate these responsibilities. You could give one person authority over making healthcare decisions while giving another power of your finances. Sometimes, this is an easy decision. For example, if you have a child who is a doctor and a sibling who is a CPA, you may want your child to handle your healthcare decisions while your sibling manages your estate.

Who Do You Trust?

If you are unable to make decisions due to being incapacitated, whoever has your Power of Attorney speaks for you. What they say is legally binding and is treated as if you said it yourself. This means that unless you have an advance directive or living will outlining your healthcare wishes, your Power of Attorney can make any decision about your health. They can even decide to have you removed from life-extending devices or treatment. Whoever you give this power to needs to be someone you trust implicitly.

Power of Attorney Can Be a Burden

Because the person you name may have to make difficult choices, you should keep in mind that you’re putting a burden on them. Keep this in mind. For example, you may not want to place the burden of deciding to end your life on one of your children. Always sit down and talk to the person you want to name your Power of Attorney to make certain they are willing to accept this task.

Need help drafting Power of Attorney documents? Michael F. Kanzer & Associates can help. Reach out today to arrange a free consultation.

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