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Powers of Attorney and How To Choose Them

posted on September 20, 2017 by Willingham & Cote

by Lee B. Reimann, Estate & Gifts

Our September newsletter’s front page encourages young adults to have legal and medical powers of attorney before they head-off to college and as a young adult, it often is not hard to decide who to choose for those jobs – typically either your mother or your father or both.  But as we get older and our lives get more complicated, the question of “who should I choose as my power of attorney?” becomes a bigger discussion.

LEGAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

First you should know that your Power of Attorney will be your legal “fiduciary” – meaning that he or she has a legal duty to do what is in your best interest.  If your power of attorney misuses your money, he or she can be sued in court.  The problem can arise, however, if your power of attorney misuses your money and doesn’t have money of their own.  In this case, there may not be much that you can do to recover your funds.  Therefore, you should carefully choose someone that you can trust.

On the other hand, I am often asked how to choose a power of attorney from among children or friends.  Acting as power of attorney is a job, and the choice shouldn’t be based on love alone, but on ability to do the job.  A power of attorney should not just be trustworthy, but should be organized, able to keep track of spending and available to help out when needed.  I believe that everyone should have a power of attorney in place, but consider the choice carefully.

MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

A medical power of attorney – or patient advocate – is a person that can make medical decisions for you if and only if you cannot make those decisions for yourself.  When selecting a medical power of attorney, I suggest that you choose someone that not only knows your medical wishes, but also has the intestinal fortitude to insist that those wished be honored.  I believe that the best way to communicate your choices for medical care is to have regular, in-depth conversations with your family and in particular the person that you have chosen to be your medical power of attorney.

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