How Do I Begin to Serve as Someone's Power of Attorney (Attorney-in Fact) and What Do I Need to Know?

Serving as Someone's Power of AttorneyLet’s say it’s now necessary for you to actively serve as someone’s power of attorney. How do you move from just being appointed on paper to actually being in charge? Are you assuming any personal financial responsibility for the principal’s finances?

How to Use the Power of Attorney and “Take Over”.

To do a good job as power of attorney you need to build your own inventory of everything that the principal has and keep records of all statements going forward. Start by taking a copy of the power of attorney document to the bank where the principal’s income is received. Sit down with the customer service representative and have them process you onto each and every account listed under the principal’s social security number. You will want to make sure you have checks and that you are receiving a copy of the statement at your address. You should also ask for internet access to the account, although some banks still don’t allow this.

Next call all other financial institutions where the principal has an investment of any sort and ask them to tell you their particular procedure for you to follow to get authority over the account. When following their procedure also ask that after processing your power of attorney that they provide you current values on the asset. For life insurance policies and annuities, you want to know the death benefit, the cash surrender value, and the named beneficiaries.

Next present the power of attorney to any vendors, like power, insurance, and cable companies, and have the bills sent directly to you to prevent delays or interruption in services.

Are You Assuming Any Personal Financial Responsibility When You Act as Power of Attorney for the Principal?

Your financial responsibility is to apply the principal’s resources to best meet their needs. Contracts and admission agreements should be completed to reflect that it is the principal who is contracting for services and that you are merely facilitating his contract by signing as his agent. On the signature line you can print the principal’s name, then sign “by, John Doe, POA”.

What are Some of the Duties that I Have to Be Aware Of?

  • You must only do those things authorized in the document. (So, document drafting is critical.)
  • You must act in good faith, not contrary to the principal’s best interest.
  • You must attempt to preserve the estate plan if preserving the plan is consistent with the principals’s best interest. In making this decision you may consider any relevant fact, but some listed factors to consider include: the value of the property, foreseeable obligations (i.e, $8,000 per month in nursing home monthly cost of care), and eligibility for a benefit.

See F.S. 709.2114 for the complete list.

Walt Shurden
Board Certified Elder Law Attorney