A power of attorney is a legal designation that empowers someone else to act on your behalf under very specific circumstances. It can be set up so that they have the legal right to make financial decisions, medical decisions and even decisions on behalf of any business you might run in the event that you are incapacitated due to a medical condition that renders you unable to advocate on behalf of your own interests (for example, if you’re in a coma after a car crash). This person is known as your agent.
When selecting an agent to act on your behalf as a power of attorney, it’s essential to choose someone who possesses certain traits and qualities to better ensure your interests are protected and your wishes are carried out effectively. In other words, choosing someone is important, but choosing the right person is critical.
Beneficial traits to seek out
Here are some important traits to look for in an agent:
- Trustworthiness: Above all else, your agent should be someone you trust implicitly. They will have access to your financial, legal and personal matters, so their integrity is paramount.
- Reliability: Your agent should be dependable and responsible. You need someone who is willing to do the job and that you trust to both carry out your wishes and act in your best interests consistently.
- Proximity: Depending on the nature of your power of attorney, it may be helpful if your agent lives nearby, making it easier for them to manage your affairs and attend to your needs.
- Availability: Ensure that your agent is available and willing to fulfill their role when needed. It’s not helpful if they are frequently unavailable or unwilling to take on the responsibilities.
- Good communication skills: Effective communication is crucial. Your agent should be able to understand your wishes, convey them accurately to others and provide you with updates as necessary.
- Financial acumen: If your power of attorney involves financial matters, your agent should have a good understanding of financial management, investments and taxes.
- Organizational skills: Handling financial and legal matters often requires careful record-keeping and organization. Your agent should be detail-oriented and capable of managing documents, bills and deadlines.
- Health and longevity: Consider the agent’s age, health and longevity. You want someone who is likely to be available and capable for the duration of your needs.
Before designating someone as your power of attorney, have an open and honest conversation with them about your expectations and make sure they are willing and able to assume the responsibilities involved. You can also seek legal guidance at any time to better ensure that you’re taking all the steps you need to in order to make your decision legally enforceable.