When you do your estate planning, you must select who will decide for you, if you are one day unable to make or communicate your wishes. You will typically name someone to serve as your agent in a durable power of attorney for financial matters and someone to speak for you on your healthcare decisions. Since your very life and financial future might be in their hands at some point, exercise great caution when deciding who these people will be. You must know the factors to consider when thinking about Who should I choose to make my health and financial decisions?
Financial Power of Attorney Agents
If you have a durable financial power of attorney, you may still make financial decisions for yourself, as long as you have legal capacity. When you want someone else to take care of your finances or if you cannot manage your finances at some point, your agent, who is the person you designate in your power of attorney (POA) document, can handle matters for you.
There have been tragic stories of unethical people entrusted as agents in financial power of attorney papers who took the assets for themselves. Therefore, the first thing you must think about is trust. Is the person you are considering worthy of your trust? If not, move on to the next candidate.
Do not select your POA agent based on category without looking closely at the individual. For example, do not select someone merely because she is your oldest adult child if she is not trustworthy, has addiction or gambling issues or does not handle money well.
Do not worry about whether someone will be upset you passed him over for someone else. You must look after yourself and make the decision best for you.
You may go outside of the family when selecting your agent. You can select a professional personal financial manager, accountant, lawyer, bank or other entity.
Healthcare Power of Attorney Decision-maker
The person you select to express your medical wishes for you, if you cannot, must honor your preferences. You should not name someone who will put his or her own agenda, however well-intentioned, over what you want. If you have any doubts about whether a person can and will put your choices first, consider someone else to serve as your agent in your healthcare power of attorney, living will or advance directive.
Take the time to sit down with the person you designate and talk about your preferences with your named agent. Serving as a medical decision-maker can be a heavy responsibility. Make it easier for everyone by making your wishes clear to your agent and close family members, so they will be less likely to oppose your agent’s actions.
One Final Suggestion
It is generally advisable to choose one person as your agent for healthcare decisions and a different person for your financial decisions. The simple explanation is that you do not want the person with control over your money to also to have the power to “pull the plug.”
The laws vary from state to state, so talk with an elder law attorney in your area.
Aging Options. “Choosing your financial power of attorney.” (accessed January 31, 2018) https://www.agingoptions.com/2013/05/choosing-your-financial-power-of-attorney/
AARP. “Advance Directive: Creating a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney. (accessed January 31, 2018) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/living-will-power-of-attorney.html