Am I Cut Out to Be Your Power of Attorney?

Next Avenue’s article, “Saying ‘No’ to Power of Attorney Duty,” says that not everyone’s cut out to be a power of attorney (POA)., There are many reasons children and others may need to say no when asked. Becoming a power of attorney is a big job. This obligation shouldn’t be entered into without great consideration. With the POA legal instrument, a person named power of attorney is referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” and the person on whose behalf she’s acting is the “principal.”

While there are several combinations and varieties of power of attorney, there are two common ones. General durable power of attorney, also known as power of attorney for finances, allows the named agent to act on behalf of the principal to take care of that person’s finances like banking, paying bills, or selling a house. Health care or medical power of attorney allows the agent to make health care decisions, in the event the principal is incapacitated.

A common misconception about POAs, is that people think that if they’re named as an agent on a POA, they’ll wind up owing money for the principal’s unpaid medical bills. Not so. An agent is merely acting on behalf of another person, not making themselves personally liable. However, there are other reasons a person may want to decline being named power of attorney. Ask yourself these questions, when considering whether to commit to being someone’s power of attorney:

  • Can you drop everything for weeks or months and make critical medical decisions?
  • Do you have the emotional strength to make hard, life-and-death decisions?
  • How is the family dynamic? Do you have a sibling who’s quick to anger or who could be suspicious of your motives, when it comes to medical or financial decisions?

If you’re not up to it, and the person who appointed or plans to name you as POA is still capable, it’s best to talk directly with that person about your concerns. Be honest and let them know how you feel.

The possibility of a POA not being able to serve is highly likely, and that’s why everyone should designate successor agents. These alternates in a POA can cover the inability, or inevitability, that someone may not be able to serve.

If you really don’t want to be power of attorney, be honest with your family member and tell her, “I’m worried enough about you to tell you, that I’m not the right person.”

Reference: Next Avenue (September 11, 2018) “Saying ‘No’ to Power of Attorney Duty”

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