Understanding a power of attorney

It can be scary to think about, but at some point in your life you may become too old or infirm to competently manage your financial affairs. Mental incapacitation can leave you open for manipulation by an unscrupulous party seeking to siphon off your wealth, or at least, leave your finances vulnerable to other parties who may simply not have your or your family’s best interests at heart. That’s where a power of attorney comes in. You have the option of granting someone in Pennsylvania power of attorney duties to handle your estate in the event you are unable to do so.

According to the American Bar Association, a person you assign power of attorney to is called your agent. You may assign any number of powers to your agent, including managing your finances or selling or buying assets. You must spell out these powers officially in a document. When the time comes to act on them, the agent will present the document to activate the power. For example, an agent may present such a document to buy a piece of property on your behalf. If you wish, your power of attorney can handle your estate plan as well, including implementing your will.

Choosing the correct agent is important. Some people decide a family member is ideal for the task. In some cases, individuals may choose a spouse or a child. However, you do not need to choose just one agent. It is possible to choose multiple agents at once. In this case, though, you should be aware that multiple co-agents means you bring multiple perspectives into the process, and they may not always agree on what to do.

Some people may not want to pick a family member or do not have a family member available or qualified for the task of acting as an agent. According to CNN.com, you can arrange to have a lawyer, a bank or some outside party to act as your agent if needed. However, in such an arrangement you will likely need to compensate the other party for their duties as your agent, which can include anything from hourly paid fees to a percentage of your assets.

Finally, if you do not pick an agent yourself, in the event you are incapacitated, it is possible a court will appoint someone to act on your behalf. This individual is usually called a guardian, and will handle your financial matters for you. This possibility is why people elect to assign their own agent in advance, as a court may not choose someone they would have wanted.

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