Power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents a person can create. A POA is a legal document that grants authority to an individual to make financial and potentially medical decisions for another person upon incapacitation.
For those wishing to establish power of attorney, it’s beneficial to take time and consider all potential persons who could fill the role.
The following items should be considered in depth when selecting a person to serve:
- Close Proximity: Because POAs may need to get to a hospital or speak with a medical team quickly, choosing someone who lives close may be better than someone living farther away.
- Trustworthy: POAs speak on behalf of the incapacitated person. Choosing someone who can be trusted to make decisions reflecting the incapacitated person’s values is essential.
- Assertive and Articulate: The person serving as POA must have the ability to make difficult decisions, withstand pressure, and be verbally direct and stern when needed. The POA should be someone who can communicate clearly with a medical team and other family members, even when emotions are difficult.
- Basic Understanding of Medical Processes: Chosen POAs should have enough common sense and life experience to know who to ask and where to go for unanswered medical questions.
Considerations for Family Members
Spouses, children, long-term partners, and other relatives are often chosen to serve as power of attorney. While choosing family can feel safe, a POA should ultimately be the person who can make decisions that reflect discussion between the POA and individual creating it and what is written in the document. Tension can arise in familial contexts when another’s money and health are front and center.
Some family members can succumb to peer pressure, and some may disagree with your wishes. Ultimately, a POA doesn’t need to be your closest family member, but rather a trusted individual under all circumstances.