When you designate a power of attorney, you are choosing an agent. This person is then allowed to act on your behalf under very specific circumstances. Those who are empowered to act as a power of attorney usually only utilize their authority when someone has been incapacitated due to illness or injury and can no longer advocate on their own behalf.
For example, if you’re incapacitated and you can’t work with your medical team to make decisions about your care, your agent will step in and advocate on behalf of your interests. You can also use a power of attorney for financial or legal matters. But who should you choose? You’re allowed to pick anyone that you want, but not everyone you know is going to be a great fit for this role. Here are some characteristics that you may want to consider.
They are trustworthy
Trustworthiness is key. This person is going to make critical decisions on your behalf. You’re giving them an unparalleled amount of legal power. They need to be someone who will actually make decisions with your best interests in mind.
They are relatively close
You may want to select someone who is at least relatively close to home. Some parents are tempted to choose an adult child who lives in another state. But this can be problematic because there can be delays when trying to contact the agent. Many medical decisions need to be made as soon as possible in the event of an emergency.
They’re willing and able
Finally, you need someone who is willing and able to take on this role. As far as being willing is concerned, remember that even a very capable individual may find making these tough choices too difficult. On the other side of the coin, you also need someone who is intellectually capable of understanding the medical decisions that have to be made and working with your team. You certainly don’t want to pick someone who doesn’t want the job or someone who is going to be overwhelmed and confused by all the technical details.
Setting up your plan
Choosing the right person for the power of attorney is just the first step. Next, you need to know about all of the legal options you have and how to officially set up this designation and the rest of your estate plan. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to begin.