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Choosing the right attorney-in-fact or agent

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Estate Planning

People may become vulnerable and dependent on others for a variety of reasons. In many cases, age is what renders someone incapable of managing their own affairs. Cognitive decline or medical challenges like Alzheimer’s disease can leave people dependent on others for basic needs.

Other times, sudden medical incidents like strokes or accidents like car crashes can render people unconscious and dependent on others. Powers of attorney help protect people from scenarios in which they may no longer have control over their daily lives or the ability to communicate their preferences to others. The documents allow someone to name a particular person to act as their agent or attorney-in-fact.

How can people choose a suitable agent to act on their behalf in an emergency?

Age, health and proximity all matter

The ability of an agent or attorney-in-fact to provide support depends on their own personal circumstances. Someone who lives on the East Coast is too far away to reliably show up in a medical emergency or manage local resources in California.

Someone who is older than the principal drafting the documents might experience medical issues that leave them unable to provide the support that someone needs in an emergency. Additionally, those with their own health challenges may not be able to focus on the needs of someone else in an emergency. Choosing an agent or attorney in fact to lives in the state or nearby, who is young and who is healthy can help ensure someone has a reliable source of support when they need it the most.

Ethics and competence are important too

Someone acting as an agent making medical or financial choices for another person has power that they could potentially abuse. Therefore, choosing people who have a history of behaving ethically is important for those selecting an agent to step up in an emergency.

Additionally, managing someone’s finances or medical needs can be a real challenge for those who have families and jobs of their own. The person selected needs to have organizational skills and adequate intelligence to handle the responsibilities that fall to them.

It often takes careful consideration to choose the right people to hold positions of authority when drafting an estate plan. Selecting the right agent or attorney in fact can give someone protection when they need it, and peace of mind in the meantime.