If you’ve been to one of our seminars or watched our Aging Insight program, you know how important it is to have Power of Attorney documents for yourself, your spouse, and your parents. You want to be able to help your loved one if they become incapacitated, and you want to choose the person who will make decisions for you if you are unable to. However, you and your loved ones may be concerned about what exactly is involved in being a Power of Attorney agent. That’s a legitimate concern, and we want to put your mind at ease with the facts.
Responsibilities of a Power of Attorney Agent
The first thing to understand is that as a Power of Attorney agent, you are obligated to act in the best interest of the person for whom you are making decisions. This is not an opportunity to protect your inheritance or take advantage of the person. Under a general Power of Attorney, you are also responsible for:
- Understanding the terms and limitations of the specific Power of Attorney document as it applies to you. Under a standard Power of Attorney, there are certain actions that are prohibited, such as gifting the incapacitated person’s assets to another party. If the document grants special permission to conduct certain business, it is important that you understand what these actions are.
- Conducting all business on the person’s behalf, including paying bills, filing tax returns, collecting debt, and making donations
- Making investment decisions
- Managing the person’s home and property
- Filing for public benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans benefits
- Making medical decisions on the person’s behalf, including granting permission for treatment and choosing doctors
- Deciding where the person will live and how they will be cared for, such as choosing a nursing home or hiring a home health aide
For many people, these are the kinds of things you do for yourself on a daily basis, so it is not a big leap to do them for a loved one under a Power of Attorney. However, if you don’t have experience doing these tasks and making these kinds of decisions for yourself, you probably shouldn’t agree to be a Power of Attorney agent.
Help Can Always Be Found
The attorney who helped your loved one create the Power of Attorney can be a valuable resource when it comes time to implement the document. As the person with legal responsibility for an incapacitated person, it’s important that you understand and adhere to the laws that apply. At Ross & Shoalmire, P.L.L.C, we help Power of Attorney agents understand and fulfill their duties on behalf of their loved ones. If you have questions about a new or existing Power of Attorney, reach out to us today. This is an essential document to have, and you want to make sure you are doing it right.