An honor and a responsibility
As agent, you will have the right and responsibility to make financial decisions for the principal if he or she ever loses the ability to make those decisions. You should feel honored that someone trusts you enough to task you with this, but it is an enormous responsibility. If you don’t feel up to the responsibility, you can refuse it, and it’s only fair that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
The first thing you need to do, of course, is read the power of attorney. It will describe the full extent of your powers and responsibilities, and it will say whether it takes effect as soon as you sign it or as soon as certain conditions, such as the incapacity of the principal, have been met. If you have any questions — and you almost certainly will — you should ask an attorney for help. An elder law attorney would be best, as they are most familiar with powers of attorney.
Your responsibilities as attorney-in-fact
Your main responsibility right now is to understand and as much as possible internalize the wishes and preferences of your principal, so that you can truly speak for him or her. As attorney-in-fact, acting in good faith is necessary but not sufficient — you must do everything in your power to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest between yourself and your principal.
Learn his or her estate plan and preserve it. Keep an absolute firewall between their money, property and other resources and your own. Above all, write down everything. Document every decision and make sure every cent of every expense has been fully accounted for.
One more thing you and the principal should do is make sure that the financial power of attorney is drawn up properly, so that you can use it to protect the assets of the principal when he or she goes into a nursing home. Do this as soon as possible, while the principal is still of sound mind and can amend the power of attorney if necessary. There is certain language that the power of attorney has to contain in order to allow gifting to take place. Not every attorney knows about this language. Again, you need to see an elder law attorney about this.
Help with power of attorney in Gastonia, NC
Robert C. Whitt is a Gastonia attorney, servicing the areas of Gastonia, Charlotte, Mount Holly and Gaston, Mecklenburg, Lincoln Counties and surrounding communities. He focuses on wills, trusts and other aspects of elder law. If you need a power of attorney drawn up, or just looked over to make sure it has been written properly, make an appointment today.