What to Know About Helping Your Loved One Select a Power of Attorney Agent

Finding someone who is trustworthy, and can communicate comfortably with your older loved one is key.

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- Posted on May 7, 2019

A caregiver helping her loved one with power of attorney paperwork.

Tiffany Taylor is a Financial Empowerment Coach with ESOP, a subsidiary of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. Julie Hayes is the Editorial Assistant at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

One of the most invaluable things you can do for your loved one is to guide him or her in establishing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or Finances. Having these documents can give your older family member or friend the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a carefully chosen person will make important health care or financial decisions on his or her behalf if necessary. This agent will act only after your loved one’s physician has declared that he or she cannot make such decisions independently. So naturally, the person selected as agent should be someone who can be trusted not to abuse the position, and who will respect the desires of your loved one and act in his or her best interests. Another major consideration is to find someone with whom your loved one can easily communicate preferences and wishes.

You can assist your loved one in selecting a Power of Attorney agent, by identifying somebody who is:

  • Prepared to communicate on behalf of your loved one and who will be comfortable making decisions for him or her
  • Willing to take action according to what your loved one desires, rather than based on his or her own wishes
  • In a position to travel to be with your loved one at little notice
  • Skilled at dealing with conflicting opinions among family members, friends and medical caregivers
  • A strong advocate who can be firm with medical personnel or institutions when it’s needed
  • Well-versed on your loved one’s condition and medical history if he or she is accepting the responsibility of health care agent
  • Fully apprised of your loved one’s estate and assets, and is knowledgeable about financial affairs, if acting as financial agent

 On the flip side, a Power of Attorney agent should not be:

  • A professional health care provider, such as an owner, operator or employee of a health, residential or community care facility serving your loved one
  • A spouse or close relative of any health care provider who is handling your loved one’s care
  • Anyone who is an agent for 10 or more individuals

An important consideration in drawing up a Power of Attorney for Finances is that your loved one may be worried about financial abuse. He or she may have serious concerns about the funds being misused, or about the agent changing crucial information such as names of beneficiaries or recipients of charitable donations. To protect your loved one’s financial arrangements, you can encourage him or her to:

  • Be careful not to choose an agent who has a history of substance abuse, gambling, debt or financial mismanagement 
  • Avoid selecting someone he or she has or is going to hire or someone with whom there may be a financial conflict of interest 
  • Let other family members or friends know who is being appointed as an agent so that they can keep a close eye on the agent’s actions and behavior
  • Revoke or reassign Power of Attorney if he or she has concerns about the agent. However, be aware that your loved one must first be declared mentally capable of making decisions by his or her primary care physician in order to revoke or reassign an agent

In the event that your loved one is declared mentally unfit, it may fall to you or other close relatives to remove an agent who is abusing his or her authority. If you need to report Power of Attorney abuse, you can do so in the following ways:

If a court finds evidence that the agent has acted outside the authority of the Power of Attorney, or contrary to your loved one’s interests, it may take various possible courses of action, depending on the seriousness of the agent’s offense. Among them are:

  • Compelling the agent to properly comply with the Power of Attorney and increasing the number of times he or she must report to the court
  • Removing the authority of the agent and appointing a replacement
  • Ordering repayment of any improperly used funds 
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