Powers of Attorney (Part III)
Virtually any adult is legally qualified to act as an attorney. Before giving someone this power, however, you should carefully consider several things.
The most important of these by far is TRUST. The person acting as your attorney for property has immediate access to everything you own. In the case of a POA for personal care, the attorney must be trusted to make life-and-death decisions on your behalf when you are not able to make them. In both cases, it is important to designate someone you trust. The fact that an attorney abusing his or her authority under the POA may be sued or prosecuted for fraud is small comfort after the fact.
The second factor is competence. The attorney will manage all your financial and personal affairs if you cannot, so you must have complete faith in the attorney’s capabilities. The most trustworthy person in the world would not be a suitable attorney if they cannot manage the bill payments.
Third, the attorney must be willing to take on the job and follow your instructions. Acting as an attorney can be a time-consuming undertaking, so it is important that you confirm his or her willingness to act in this capacity.
Fourth, the attorney should have easy access to you and your property. It would not be wise to select an attorney living in Europe if you are currently living in Canada, since the attorney has to be available to manage things.
In addition, there are several classes of people who are prohibited from acting as an attorney for personal care. Essentially, these are people who have some financial interest in your care, including your doctor, landlord, teachers, paid support staff and social workers.
You must decide whether to have multiple attorneys, and if so, whether they should act jointly or separately. If you decide on more than one attorney, there should be a dispute resolution mechanism included in the POA. You should also consider appointing an alternate attorney in case the primary attorney is unavailable or unwilling to act.
While it is possible to draft a POA from a kit, it is generally recommended that you obtain independent professional advice, and review the terms of the POA regularly, along with your will.