Selecting an Agent Under a Financial Power of Attorney
In the last post, the importance and nature of the power of attorney was highlighted. The principal gives the legal authority to the agent to make decisions on his or her behalf. This post focuses on selecting the agent. Make no mistake about it; selecting an agent is a very serious matter. After all, you are putting your future in the hands of someone else. Due to the gravity of what is at stake, the importance of selecting an appropriate agent cannot be stressed enough. Keep in mind that your agent will have access to your financial resources, often without your approval. An agent needs to be someone in whom you have the most utmost confidence and trust. You will want to select someone who is responsible and prudent.
Usually, a family member or a friend is chosen as an agent. Whomever it is, that person should be appointed with the greatest of care because if the wrong decision is made it can spell “disaster”. It is important to understand you are not selecting an agent solely because you love them, but because you know with certainty that they will make decisions regarding your estate in accordance with your desires.
The agent’s role is to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able to do so yourself. The appointment of an agent creates a fiduciary relationship with you, the principal. The agent must act for the benefit of the principal, keep the agent’s assets separate from the principal’s assets, use reasonable caution and prudence when making decisions for the principal, and maintain full and accurate record of all actions, receipts, and payments on behalf of the principal.
It is critically important to select the right agent; otherwise you leave yourself vulnerable to the wasting, neglect, or abuse of your assets. Although it is true that an agent can be removed, that usually doesn’t occur until after “the horse has left the barn” and the damage is done.
The right elder law attorney can guide and advise you in choosing the right agent.