by Mary Ellis Patton & Amy E. Dougherty
When a loved one names you to be their attorney-in-fact or agent, you must follow the instructions contained in the authorizing document. Most importantly, a Power-of-Attorney (POA) is not a document that can be used to impose your will on the principal (the person signing the POA). The principal still has the ability to make decisions on his own. (You cannot “get power of attorney over” someone.) Only a guardianship can take those fundamental rights away.
Your Four Big Responsibilities:
1. Act only in the best interest of the principal. You need to avoid conflicts of interest. Make decisions based upon what the principal desires or would want done if competent.
2. Manage his/her money responsibly. You should make informed and careful decisions. This may require you to get professional assistance from an attorney, accountant, or financial adviser.
3. Do not mingle their finances with your own. Use their money for their needs and benefits only. This might be slightly different if the principal is your spouse.
4. Keep accurate records of their finances – income and expenditures. You need to be able to account for all of the money that you have spent on behalf of the principal.
Failure to do these could result in legal consequences! Contact a qualified Elder Law Attorney if you have questions about your responsibilities under a POA.