One of the most important aspects of estate planning is assigning a power of attorney. The power of attorney is a nationally recognized role, but requirements will differ from state-to-state. This paper gives one or more individuals the power to act on your behalf – operating as your agent. Their power can be limited to just one activity, such as making healthcare decisions, or the power can be general. You can also authorize permanent or temporary power of attorney to a single individual.
These roles take effect immediately once the document is signed or upon the occurrence of an event – such as becoming incapacitated. The power of attorney can also be revoked, but you will be required to submit a written notice of revocation to the individual that is currently acting as your agent.
The person that is assigned a power of attorney is your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” With that valid power of attorney, they can take whatever action that is permitted within the scope of the document. For example, they can sell assets or even acquire new assets on your behalf.
While you may be wary about assigning someone so much power over your life and wealth, it is important to realize that without a power of attorney, if you are unable to manage your own personal and business affairs, the court may have to appoint one or more individuals to do so for you – and these may be individuals that you would rather not have managing your life.
Who Should Be Your Estate Agent?
You are allowed to choose anyone as your agent. Most individuals will name a family member, such as their spouse or child to act on their behalf. You can also name more than one person to act as an agent at the same time – but be aware agents may disagree. Co-agents should have special provisions in the power of attorney to ensure there is limited disagreement among both parties.
You should also name a successor agent to your primary agent. This is because if the first agent is unavailable or unable to fulfill their role, you will need a secondary agent to step in and assume their duties. Without a successor, the courts will have to decide an agent on your behalf.
There are no requirements or qualifications needed to be an estate agent. The only qualification is that the person is of legal age and that they are not incapacitated themselves. The best choice is always an individual that you trust and know is responsible enough to carry out your wishes. This person should be impartial and able to put what you request ahead of their own personal gain.
Before Selecting an Agent, Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney
Because of the broad powers that can be assigned to an agent, it is important that you speak with an attorney. Your attorney can advise you as to the roles of an agent and help you not only select the proper party, but designate their powers so that only competent individuals are handling certain aspects of your estate – and most importantly, that they are handling things in your best interests. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your powers of attorney. Contact him at 516-605-0625 or online for a free consultation appointment.