When you’re making your estate plans, a critical part of the decisions you need to make is who you should grant your powers of attorney (POAs).
Your power of attorney is someone you give the right to make medical or financial decisions (or both) for you in the event that you are not able to make those decisions on your own. This is a common end-of-life situation, but you can also need a POA to step in if you’re in a serious accident or incapacitated by a sudden illness.
Because you are giving someone a tremendous amount of authority to act in your stead, you need to make sure that you pick someone with the following characteristics:
1. You trust them 100% to follow your wishes
If you’re going to let someone have access to your bank account or make medical decisions for you, you’d better have no doubts about their trustworthiness. Look at the person’s character, integrity and values and make sure that you believe that they will follow your wishes – even if those wishes might run counter to them
2. You know they can be assertive and can handle pressure
In any situation where a POA needs to step in, there are bound to be a lot of strong feelings going on. That can lead to conflicts about what should be done for you – and your POA needs to be able to speak up and assert themselves. They also need to be able to withstand pressure from others (especially from family) to do something that would violate your expressed desires.
3. They are intelligent and capable of asking for help
The person holding your financial POA doesn’t have to be an accountant to do the job right, nor does your medical POA need to be a doctor. However, they should be able to ask the right questions, make relative sense of what they are told (whether that’s during a conversation with your banker or in consultation with your physicians) and be able to recognize when they need professional assistance.
4. They live nearby and are willing to serve
Your POA needs to be close at hand. It wouldn’t be practical for someone to handle these tasks from a distance. They also need to be willing to do the job. You need to have some detailed conversations with them about your wishes, and you need to make sure they’re comfortable with what you want.
If you’re ready to get your estate plans in order, it’s always wise to start the process with some experienced legal guidance.