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Declining the Duty of Being Power of Attorney

We have all heard the importance of having a Will. You may also have heard about the importance and benefits of assigning a power of attorney to carry out your Will upon your death. But what happens when your power of attorney changes his or her mind?

There are several reasons as to why a designated power of attorney does not wish to carry out the accompanying duties. In fact, it is a big undertaking to serve as someone’s power of attorney and great consideration should be given on both the part of the Principal (the owner of the Will) and the Agent (the person who is acting on behalf of the “principal”). The two most common types of power of attorney are:

  1. General durable power of attorney – this is the power of attorney for finances. The named agent may act on behalf of the principal to handle such things as banking, selling a house, or paying bills.

2. Healthcare or medical power of attorney – this power of attorney is pretty straightforward. It enables the agent to make medical/health care decisions should the principal become incapacitated.

It is important to note that accepting the responsibility of becoming one’s power of attorney does not make he or she liable for any debts of the principal. However, there are still many other reasons to decline the job. Sometimes the emotional burden of making decisions for a loved one is too much to bear, while other times personal situations may be too distracting.

What to Think About Before Committing to Being Someone’s POA

Accepting the duty of being a loved one’s power of attorney can be daunting; it is no small job. That is why it is so important to give much consideration to quite a few things prior to committing. Despite the ability to decline the duty down the road, it is wise to think about several things before even initially accepting.

It is extremely important to first consider your emotional fortitude. Are you an emotional mess or do you have the tough, objectivity to make sound decisions – especially during a medical crisis. You know yourself better than anyone else; if it is too difficult to be put into that position, you may want to decline.

In the event that your loved one becomes incapacitated and his or her health is declining, it is important to consider your schedule, distance, and lifestyle. Sometimes, serving as someone’s power of attorney requires that you be available for potentially weeks or even months in the event of a medical crisis during which decisions need to be made.

Another important thing to think about is how accepting this duty will affect your family dynamic. If accepting power of attorney is likely to be a source of severe contention for you and will cause you much emotional hardship, you may want to reconsider.

Naming Successor Agents

It may be wise of a principal to name successor agents in the event that the designated Executor could not fulfill the duty. The event of an individual not being able to serve is quite common.

If you do not want the responsibility but no one else is willing to take it on either, it may be a good idea to set up an agency arrangement with a bank, which will take on some of the financial matters should the principal become incapacitated. You also have the option of creating a revocable trust with the bank named as the successor trustee.

There are many ways that you can set up a situation for who is to make decisions. However, the most important thing is to always be honest about what you feel comfortable with. It’s better to be truthful now and give your loved one the opportunity to reconfigure arrangements, than to backpedal down the road.

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