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Who should serve as the agent of a durable powers of attorney?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Powers of attorney are documents that grant a trusted individual the authority to act on behalf of someone else under specific circumstances. The agent or attorney-in-fact named in power of attorney documents can complete financial transactions in some cases or handle medical issues on behalf of the principal drafting the documents.

During an emergency scenario in which someone cannot act in their own best interests, the person they named in their documents can protect them. An agent can communicate about the type of medical care someone prefers to receive and can manage someone’s finances on their behalf until they recover.

Durable powers of attorney exist for scenarios in which recovery is unlikely. If someone becomes permanently incapacitated, durable powers of attorney continue to hold their authority. The person named as agent or attorney-in-fact in durable powers of attorney can serve in that role even if someone never recovers for the rest of their life. How can someone choose the right agent for when they are at their most vulnerable?

The right candidate possesses multiple characteristics

People all too often choose their oldest child or their closest sibling when determining who should be their agent or attorney-in-fact. They look at affection levels more than other key characteristics. Obviously, having a positive relationship with the person actually as one’s agent is important. However, the person entrusted to this key role needs to be diligent, organized, responsible and an effective communicator. Ideally, they are healthy enough to hold the position indefinitely if necessary.

Additionally, where they live and their current family obligations can influence whether or not they are a good candidate for the role. Someone who is typically kind and considerate but who struggles with confrontation or has a history of making late bill payments might not be the best option.

Having a backup candidate is also a good decision, as one never knows when the agent selected might have a change of heart or a personal emergency that could leave them less willing or capable of filling that role when someone needs that support the most. In some scenarios, people even choose professional fiduciaries because they prefer to take the pressure off of their families during what is likely to be a difficult time for everyone.

Those who address elder law matters when creating or reviewing their estate plans can better ensure proper support in a variety of unusual scenarios. Thinking carefully about who to name as the agent in a durable powers of attorney designation can help ensure that the right person provides support when someone else is at their most vulnerable.