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What Can Someone Do if I Designate Them as My Power of Attorney?

A couple of questions that we at Bauer and Associates get quite frequently are, “What can someone do if I designate them as my power of attorney?” and, “Can someone take advantage of me if I have them as my Power of Attorney?” These are two incredibly important questions in deciding whether or not you designate an attorney in fact by your Power of Attorney, and even more importantly who you intend to give that power.

What can someone do if I designate them as my power of attorney?

First, it is important to note that when someone is acting as your attorney in fact under your Power of Attorney (POA), he or she is legally only allowed to make decisions which are in your best interest. Meaning your POA can not sell the home you own to themselves. While your POA does in fact have the ability to sell property on your behalf, they may only do so if it is in your best interest. While your POA could however sell your home for a fair market price, the money from the sale of your home would need to go towards your care, living expenses, etc. A good example of when your POA might do this is when you are no longer fit to take care of your home, and you need money to relocate yourself to a situation that better suits you.

Can someone take advantage of me if I have them as my Power of Attorney?

Many people fear that their POA may one day take money from their bank accounts, portfolios, etc., for their own personal gain. While this is a justifiable fear, the concept above applies in all transactions and actions taken by your POA. While your POA will have the ability to access your accounts, they may only make financial decisions that benefit you. They may not legally take money from your account and apply it to things which do not directly benefit you. Should your POA violate the best interest theory, you, your estate, or your authorized representatives would have a valid legal action against the POA who has taken wrongful action.

Your POA will have the ability to do many things on your behalf, so long as said acts are being done to benefit you, said actions include but are not limited to:

  • selling or mortgaging real property
  • dealing with your financials (including retirement, stocks, portfolios, etc.)
  • creating a trust on your behalf
  • making health care decisions

Your POA does not have authority over your person. In other words, your POA cannot force you to move into a life care facility.

One of the most critical things you should consider is whether or not the person whom you’d like to assign as your POA will be willing to act as your POA. Of course every family is different, but we often suggest selecting a spouse as your first POA, and a child as your second POA. Of course everyone’s situation is unique, so we emphasize that no matter who you pick, ensure that it is someone whom you trust, and whom you know will go above and beyond acting as your POA should they ever need to exercise their powers. If you believe you need a Power of Attorney please feel free to call to set up a free estate planning consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

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