Choosing Your Agent: who will make your decisions when you are unable to?

July 17, 2020

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When choosing a person that will serve as your power of attorney or guardian and/or conservator (your “agent”), there are several factors that you should consider before signing on the dotted line to choose your agent. Here are the top three things to consider when choosing a decision maker for yourself if it ever becomes necessary in the future:

Choose someone trustworthy.

Once a guardian, conservator or power of attorney is invoked, the person taking on that role will have complete access to your personal life, including things like medical records, bank accounts, and personal property.  It is important to choose someone for these roles that you trust. Not only will you feel comfortable knowing that your affairs are being handled in an honorable way, it decreases the likelihood that a family member brings a challenge over an action that your guardian/conservator/power of attorney may make.

Choose a team player.

The person who serves as your agent, particularly in the case of guardianship, not only has to make decisions for you, but also has to be able to work with your family and loved ones. Things like visitation, medical information, care-giving, and even something as simple as a phone call, can be difficult if your guardian is not on the same page as other persons trying to see you or reach you. Family dynamics often come into play in these types of situations, and choosing someone who can accommodate different personalities will go a long way in ensuring peace during your time of need. By choosing a guardian that is able to be a positive and adaptable person, while still ensuring your best interest, will go a long way in ensuring your wellness while also keeping ties to family and friends strong.

Choose someone who knows your wishes.

Whomever you choose, it is important to have a conversation with them about your wishes. Even in cases where my clients have chosen to appoint an institution, such as a bank, to serve as financial power of attorney or conservator, I have encouraged them to meet with the bank personnel who will be handling their file. In the case of a family member who is serving in any of these roles, it is equally important to discuss how your finances will be managed, what your wishes are for end-of-life care, assisted living, gifting, your estate plan, and more. The more information this person has about your wishes, the better able they will be able to carry them out when the time requires.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


 

 

 

Our additional resources on estate planning are available here.

If you need help with Nebraska or Iowa estate planning, contact contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

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