Power of Attorney Do’s and Don’ts



There are a few important things to consider if you or someone you know is thinking about choosing a person to act as a power of attorney.

Sylvia DiPietro is an estate and elder care lawyer. She is also a professor at Brooklyn Law School.  She’s helped many who made mistakes and picked the wrong person and were harmed by their bad judgment and actions. 

Here are Sylvia’s Do’s and Don’ts

           Choosing An Attorney

  • DO have an attorney draft the power of attorney document.
  • DO select an attorney who has patience, won’t rush you and will explain everything clearly.

            Choosing Your Power of Attorney

  • DO select someone you know is accurate, detailed, responsible and efficient in their own life with their own finances. You want someone to pay your bills on time and ensure that your tax returns are prepared and filed on time.  Try to avoid a family member or friend who borrows frequently, has a great deal of credit card or other debt or is generally careless with themselves and their finances.  There is a good chance that their bad habits will spill over to your finances.
  • DO find someone who can help supervise the power of attorney. Select an outside monitor, like an attorney, who has the authority to request that your power of attorney produce all records of transactions made on your behalf.  The monitor can review the activities of the person you choose as power of attorney, if his or her actions become or appear questionable.  Having a responsible monitor appointed can also appease anxious family members
  • DO select a backup power of attorney at the same time you decide on your power of attorney.
  • DO agree upfront on a reasonable hourly fee to compensate your power of attorney for services  on your behalf. This eliminates any guesswork and misunderstandings.  You can also agree on a fee for the monitor.  If you only require basic bookkeeping, don’t select an attorney who will charge you his or her legal hourly rate.

DON’TS

  • DON’T download a power of attorney, or any other important legal instrument from the Internet.  If you do, it may cost you or your estate down the road.
  • DON’T assume anything and DON’T be afraid to ask questions.  When it comes to your life and your retirement plans, make sure that the attorney is clear about your wishes. You can always change them.
  • DON’T grant any powers to your agent that you are not comfortable giving.  You can always appoint someone as your healthcare proxy and executor under your will and these individuals don’t have to be the same person.
  • DON’T execute more than one power of attorney and give a separate power of attorney to each of your loved ones. That’s sure to create friction in the family. Discuss openly with your loved ones who you have appointed as your agent and why.
  • DON’T allow your power of attorney to make gifts or loans to himself or other family members, unless you have discussed it fully with your attorney beforehand and the ground rules are laid out.

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.

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