A power of attorney is a valuable legal tool that provides a person with a great measure of security should unfortunate events transpire and leave them unable to effectively manage their own estate. When these events transpire, a durable power of attorney can be a great benefit to the principal when it comes to properly managing their affairs by assigning the responsibility to a trusted friend.
When someone grants another person the authority to manage their day-to-day affairs and finances, it’s not only a big step for the principal, but it’s a huge responsibility for the person asked to perform the task as well. For this reason, the most important decision a principal can make beyond deciding to form a durable power of attorney in the first place, is to make the right decision on who to enact as their attorney-in-fact to represent them in their affairs. Once the potential attorney-in-fact has been determined and asked to be the representative, it is important for that person to fully understand the responsibilities of their position and exactly what their duties and requirements will be.
Once the durable power of attorney becomes effective, the attorney-in-fact takes over the affairs of the principal and becomes responsible for the administration of the estate. One of the critical aspects of the process is for the attorney-in-fact to keep an open flow of communication with the dependents and family members of the principal.
A power of attorney template or POA form can be used to nominate a power of attorney to represent an individual and their affairs in several different areas should they become incapacitated.
When it comes to proper conduct in the administration of a durable power of attorney, transparency and communication are critical to avoiding problems that can arise when there are unhappy or jealous family members waiting for an excuse to cause legal difficulties. By maintaining constant consultations with all family members and dependents and acting in a very open and ethical manner, the agent protects themselves from these types of family disputes that can always arise during such a stressful time.
Perhaps the main responsibility of the attorney-in-fact is to manage the daily financial obligations that make up the estate. The power of attorney document ensures that the attorney-in-fact has the capabilities to manage the assets of the estate in the same manner that the principal would be able to if they were still capable of administering it themselves.
Depending on the level of authority granted to the agent, they will usually have the duty to manage the day-to-day banking needs of the principal and ensure that all bank accounts are kept in order and the funds utilized are properly accounted for. Another duty that might be performed by the agent is to administer any real estate needs such as the sale of a property or the management of rental or lease properties that are part of the estate. Stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles might also need to be monitored and taken care of by the agent if needed, so it is important for the principal to ensure that they select an agent that has the ability to understand and act effectively upon the financial obligations that they will be held responsible for.
The larger and more intricate a principal’s estate is, the more important it is for the principal to select an agent that has the credentials and knowledge to effectively manage the complexities of the estate and its assets.
Another area in which the attorney-in-fact must demonstrate responsibility is to maintain an accounting paper trail that gives transparency to their actions. The agent must ensure that they keep a consistent ledger of all financial and asset allocation decisions made while acting as the principal’s agent.
Throughout the term of the power of attorney, the agent will be required to make expenditures from the estate’s assets in order to properly conduct the affairs of the estate as well as support and care for the principal and any dependents of the principal. It is important for the attorney-in-fact to properly account for and document all expenditures that are made on behalf of the estate and the principal. In this regard, knowledge of proper accounting techniques can be very helpful to the agent, especially with particularly large estates with multiple assets.
Becoming an attorney-in-fact is a large responsibility for anyone, especially if the estate is very large. It can also be a daunting proposition if the principal has dependents that they normally care for or there are family members who constantly concern themselves with the well-being of the principal and their estate and want to involve themselves in the process of its administration. Although it can be a very somber responsibility, the agent can take solace in the fact that they are the most trusted person, by the principal, to manage the assets of the estate, and many times they are chosen over close family members.
As long as the attorney-in-fact conducts themselves in an open and honest manner and clearly and consistently documents their actions on behalf of the estate, the problems that can be associated with becoming an attorney-in-fact can be minimized. By doing these things, the agent can faithfully fulfill their obligations to the principal, who is, after all, someone who trusts them enough to ask them to be their representative in the first place.
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