The purpose of a power of attorney (POA) is to appoint an agent to look after the best interests of an individual if they are unable to. This can apply to a durable power of attorney where the designated person (known as an Attorney-in-Fact) makes decisions regarding finances, banking and legal affairs. There is also a Health Care Surrogate who has legal control of all healthcare decisions if a person is unable to make informed decisions regarding their medical care. While many of these documents immediately take effect, there is also a springing power of attorney, which is typically used for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s – in this case, the agent steps in once doctors determine that a principal is incapacitated.

Who is the right choice?

People typically chosen to be POA include a spouse, a close relative, a trusted offspring, or even an attorney. Regardless of who the person is, they should have specific attributes that enable them to fulfill their obligations. The right choice is:

  • Reliable
  • Accountable
  • Trustworthy

Things do change

Depending on the selection, a principal may want to change their POA at a later date. The circumstances of these decisions will be unique, but some common reasons for switching include:

  • A spouse or chosen agent is no longer capable or alive.
  • Circumstances of your estate have changed, and someone with more business acumen is a better choice.
  • You started a successful business, and someone will need to make decisions about what to do with it.
  • The circumstances of your health have changed drastically, and the Healthcare Surrogate will need to make some difficult choices in the coming months and years.

 Everyone needs to designate a power of attorney

Everyone should designate a POA when they become an adult, although the courts can appoint a guardian. Before making these decisions, the principal should discuss the matter with a knowledgeable attorney to make sure that you understand how much authority is designated to the agent of your choosing and plan for contingencies of circumstances change. Not only can an attorney guide the principal to choose the right agent, but they can also make sure that the document truly expresses your intentions as the principal.