Choosing an agent for your power of attorney for finances and power of attorney for health care is an important element of estate planning. Although no one likes to think about becoming ill or injured and having to rely on someone else to make decisions for them, being prepared can give you peace of mind. Estate planning lawyers can give you advice and help you make informed choices that protect your interests should you need to rely on others to act on your behalf.
What Are Powers of Attorney?
The person named in a power of attorney is typically called an agent, and is authorized to make decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be as general or specific as you wish. There are two main types of power of attorney that are critical to have:
Power of attorney for health care allows an agent to make medical decisions for you should you become unable to do so. This may include specific treatment, admission to a nursing care facility, and life-sustaining measures such as a feeding tube, artificial ventilation, or resuscitation. In some states a power of attorney for health care must include a living will or advance directive that states which (if any) life-sustaining actions you wish to be taken.
Power of attorney for finances enables your agent to manage your finances on your behalf. This may involve paying bills, selling property, managing investments, and other pecuniary tasks.
Both of these types of powers of attorney are typically durable, which means they are valid until you die or revoke them. An attorney for wills and trusts can help you draft powers of attorney that are specific to your needs and circumstances.
Who Should I Choose For My Powers of Attorney?
Regardless of whether you have close family, it is vital to select someone you trust to be your agent is vital. One thing to keep in mind is that your health care providers or their employees may not serve as an agent. If you know someone you trust to handle both health care and financial decisions on your behalf, you can choose that person to be your agent for all of these matters. Naming the same agent in both powers of attorney can help avoid confusion and conflict.
Most people without family as an option pick a trusted friend or business partner, but your agent can be any capable adult, including a professional such as a real property lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor. There are many different factors to consider when choosing an agent. You want to choose someone trustworthy who you believe will act in good faith, who:
- Is fair-minded and has integrity
- Possesses a willingness to act as your agent
- Is aware of your values and wishes
- Understands their duties and the need to take them seriously
- Is assertive enough to stand up to potential conflict with other friends or family
- Lives nearby should you be admitted to a hospital or care facility
It is critical to have a serious conversation with the person you wish to name as your agent, whether it is an attorney you trust or a close friend. Failing to do this can be detrimental to your physical and financial well-being. Choosing your agent wisely and understanding the scope of the powers you are giving them can help you feel secure about the future, whatever it may bring.