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April Harris Jackson

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This month we will discuss the subject of powers of attorney. In week one, we will discuss how to name a financial power of attorney. This is also known as a durable power of attorney.

There are many things to consider when appointing a financial power of attorney (aka an attorney-in-fact). This is an important position. Whoever you appoint would have the ability to make decisions regarding how you manage your finances. While it may seem obvious, it’s important to focus on choosing someone who is organized, trustworthy, and financially responsible.

What powers does an agent have when they have a financial power of attorney?

As stated earlier, the agent with a financial power of attorney can handle your finances just as you can. An agent will have the ability to go to your bank and handle banking transactions. They can contact your investment account broker and manage those funds. They can handle your insurance and sell your house. Of course, you want your agent to only make financial transactions in your best interest while you are incapacitated.

Can things go horribly wrong? Yes! Your agent has the power to clean out all of your bank accounts and sell your home. Heck, if they wanted to, they could take your assets, move to Fiji, and set up a little beach bar! I want to reiterate: It’s important that you choose someone who would never even think of doing something like that. You need to choose someone who will only have your best interest at heart.

Who should be your financial power of attorney?

When considering who should serve as a financial power of attorney, a lot of people are compelled to choose someone close to them. A lot of times this will be a relative, such as your children or possibly a sibling, but it doesn’t have to be. The agent could also be a close friend or even a professional if that is who fits that role in your life. In our practice, we like to make sure that our client acknowledges this very important point: the person you name as your agent in a financial power of attorney will have the ability to handle your finances pretty much the same as you will.

Choose an agent who can communicate effectively

Not only do you need to trust your agent, but we also recommend that you find someone that other people trust! While this element is not completely necessary, it may be important to you that your agent be relied upon to communicate important information effectively with the people in your life.

For example, if one of your relatives says to your agent: “Hey, my Aunty saved a lot of money and invested it well, how much does she have now and what has the spent money been used for?”. Ideally, you would have an agent that relatives intuitively trust to spend your funds in your interest. However, it would be really awesome if your agent took the time out of their day to respond thoroughly to your relative’s questions.

woman wearing a bright yellow sweater holding a smart phone and looking down. The caption says "3 ways online banking simplifies transactions" 1. allow direct debit from accounts 2. set up automatic payments 3. the ability to use instant transfer methods
Choose an agent that is comfortable with online banking

Your agent should be good at bookkeeping

In a perfect world, your agent with financial powers of attorney would be held accountable for the transactions coming out of your assets. A good agent can effectively answer questions about spending and back it up with good bookkeeping!

An agent with power of attorney does not have to live in your state

As we mentioned before, the era of digital banking is here and it allows us the option to choose from a larger pool of agents, regardless of their location. Now, many people think that their agent under a power of attorney cannot be someone who lives out of state. And that is simply not true. Sometimes it helps to have somebody who lives in the state, but that is not a requirement in Tennessee. We do so many things by email and telephone, texting, and online business transactions that your financial power of attorney person, your agent, will likely be handling any business transactions online. 

Choose an agent who will outlive you

While this is not a requirement, it is a good idea to think about someone who will outlive you. Generally, when you are using your power of attorney, it’s when you’re incapacitated. While there are times when a durable power of attorney is used on a temporary basis, such as during a medical event, it is more likely going to be during a period when we are at the end of our lives and are experiencing some type of ongoing health condition that is not likely to improve. We recommend that you look for an agent who can help on a continuing basis. A well-suited agent allows everyone to relax and enjoy the time you have left on this earth.

Who should NOT be your durable power of attorney

Again, while it may seem obvious, it is important to reiterate that anyone who is untrustworthy, unlikeable, terrible with money, incapable of balancing a checkbook, or unable to effectively use online banking might not be the best choice for becoming an agent of financial power of attorney. The goal is to find someone who can keep good accounting records and knows exactly where your money went, down to every last penny! A good agent is someone who is willing to communicate with everyone without hesitation. The main point is that no one in your circle should be concerned that your agent is taking advantage of you if you are incapacitated.

Now, if you are not incapacitated, your agent should only be acting if you are telling them to do so. Even if you have your power of attorney take effect immediately, your agent can and should only act under your direction. If you find that the agent acts otherwise, there are legal actions you can take against them in court. 

In conclusion

A power of attorney is a useful tool for organizing the “adulting” part of your life, especially in incapacitation. A financial power of attorney should be someone that you absolutely trust; someone who will not give pause to others in your life. Someone who is financially responsible and organized, and someone who is familiar with handling online transactions. It does not matter if your agent lives in your state. In short, find an agent you believe will always have your best interest at heart.

There are many types of powers of attorney. Many powers of attorney are used when creating a well-thought-out estate plan. Do you think you could use a durable power of attorney in Nashville? Schedule an initial call to see if we can help you with your situation.