Power of Attorney for Finances and Property: Who Should Be Your Agent?

Are you considering a Power of Attorney for Finances and Property for the first time?  Perhaps you are revising one that is ten, fifteen, or more years old.  Regardless, you’re making an excellent decision! 

Why?  This invaluable estate planning tool is your first line of defense against future incapacity.  Proper planning will help you accomplish the following: 

  • Stay out of the legal system,
  • Maintain your independence,
  • Utilize whatever capacity you may have,
  • Retain some level of autonomy as a decision maker, and
  • Help protect your (and your family’s) financial well-being.

Now it’s time to consider what is, perhaps, the most important question of all. 

Who should be your agent under this Power of Attorney?  For some people, the choice of a spouse or adult child is perfect.  That person possesses the necessary skills and experience, has the time and desire to serve, and lives nearby.  In addition, family relations have always been harmonious, loving, and supportive. 

Unfortunately, the stars don’t align quite so perfectly for everyone.  Some spouses and children totally lack the requisite knowledge and skills to manage your affairs.  Your spouse may have his or her own health issues…or…be affected by your health problems.  Adult children often live in another state and/or are completely pre-occupied with their careers and raising a family.  Sadly, some children simply are not trustworthy, and certain families may be dysfunctional. 

What’s a person to do?  If the choice of a family member is inappropriate for your situation, you may wish to consider a bank trust department.  

Surprised?  A bank trust department can be a critical resource.  Here are just a few advantages: 

  • Expertise:  A bank trust department has considerable expertise in the following areas:  1) investments;  2) taxes;  3) insurance/entitlements;  4) IRAs and retirement plans; and 5) all types of estate and financial planning matters.
  • Experience:  A bank trust department has broad and deep experience in working with individuals and families. 
  • Permanence:  A bank trust department will not die or move away.  
  • Availability:  A bank trust department never becomes ill or goes on vacation and is available to serve you on a 24/7 basis. 
  • Professionalism/Impartiality:  A bank trust department will not be unduly influenced by emotions, thus leading to poor decisions that are not in your best interests…or…the interests of your family. 

If you are not sure what is right for you, talk to your estate planning attorney.  He or she is your advocate, advisor, and counselor and will be able to help you determine what is best for your personal situation.

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