How to Choose the Right Power of Attorney or Personal Representative
When it comes to selecting someone to serve as your power of attorney or personal representative, you simply cannot be too careful. This is a person who will handle your legal and financial affairs if you are unable to do so, and the person who will be responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate and distribution of your assets when you are gone.
To give yourself peace of mind, secure in the knowledge that you have made the right choice, it is wise to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can provide advice on how to choose the right person to act as your power of attorney or personal representative.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a useful and powerful tool. Commonly used in estate planning, a power of attorney authorizes an agent to act on your behalf. In the power of attorney document, you can specify the powers you grant to your agent. These often include the power to pay your bills, manage your investments, and buy and sell a property.
In some cases, an agent is authorized to handle almost all transactions. Other times, the scope is more limited and only allows the agent to perform certain specific transactions, or even just one single transaction.
It can be particularly useful to have a power of attorney in place if an emergency arises and you are unable to handle your affairs on your own due to an injury, mental illness, long-term health crisis, or if you are a service member deploying overseas.
What Is a Personal Representative?
A personal representative is the person named in your will or appointed by the probate court to administer your estate upon your death. When a person dies without a will, or intestate, the probate court will appoint a personal representative to oversee the distribution of their assets.
A person who executed a will before their death is said to have died testate. The will designates a personal representative to handle their affairs after their death. This person will administer the estate by taking an inventory of their property and distributing it according to the terms of the will.
Choosing a Power of Attorney or Personal Representative
Because your power of attorney and personal representative will be handling your legal and financial affairs, it is critical that you choose someone you trust. You may consider choosing someone who has experience in the financial or legal field or has the personality and financial savvy to make sound decisions on your behalf.
Some people choose to designate the same person as their agent in the power of attorney and as the personal representative in their will. While this is common, it is not necessary, and the agent and personal representative can be two different people.
When choosing someone to serve as your agent or personal representative, you should choose someone who:
- Is trustworthy
- Makes thoughtful, rational, well-thought-out decisions
- Is fair-minded
- Understands his or her duties and takes those duties seriously
- Understands your wishes and values
- Demonstrates loyalty to you
In most cases, your agent and personal representative will have access to and control over almost all of your assets, including checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, personal property, and real estate.
Many people select their spouse, a relative, or a close friend to serve as the agent and personal representative. But you can name anyone you want.
But take care in who you select to serve as your agent or personal representative. Unfortunately, some agents or personal representatives have used a power of attorney or the power granted to them as a personal representative for their own benefit, and not for the benefit of the estate or the person who named them as an agent.
When choosing who to name as your agent or personal representative, choose someone who you believe will best respect and represent your wishes. You need to trust this person and feel comfortable discussing personal matters with them.
Characteristics of the Right Agent and Personal Representative
Common characteristics to consider when selecting someone to act as your agent or personal representative include someone who:
- Lives nearby
- Is trustworthy
- Can be assertive
- Understands the decisions they will be asked to make
- Is articulate and can communicate clearly and effectively, even under pressure
- Is willing to serve
Ager Law Offices Helps Protect Your Financial Future
Identifying an agent and personal representative is an important part of any estate plan. You should consider who will serve as your agent and personal representative now, so you have these documents in place in the event an emergency arises.
When you are considering who to identify as your agent or personal representative, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney like Bill Ager. Bill has been in practice since 1982 and has extensive experience helping people prepare their estate planning documents, including their will and power of attorney.
Learn more about Bill Ager’s estate planning services and his commitment to charging reasonable flat fees. Then call (734) 649-0784, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our online contact form to speak with Bill about your estate planning needs.