You can choose any adult to be your agent. You should choose a person you trust to make financial decisions for you. You should talk to that person first to make sure that he or she is willing to be your agent.
It’s a good idea to name an alternative person to be your agent, if the first agent later becomes unable or unwilling to continue as your agent.
What Can My Agent Do?
You can give your agent the power to generally handle your financial affairs or you can give your agent power to only make specific decisions. Even if a Power of Attorney exists, the agent is still required to follow your directions. When an agent acts within the authority of the Power of Attorney, those actions are legally binding as if you took the action yourself.
You can draft your power of attorney to give your agent any or all of these general powers:
- Pay bills like your rent or mortgage
- Conduct your financial transactions
- Handle your investments
- Apply for public benefits on your behalf
- Hire caregivers for you
- Make housing decisions for you
- Exercise your legal rights and conduct lawsuits
What Can't My Agent Do?
There are some things your agent cannot do, unless you specifically say they can do them. These specific powers are:
- the power to convey your real estate
- the power to pay the agent out of your money
- the power to make gifts or loans with your money to a third party
- the power to make gifts or loans with your money to the agent
- the power to appoint another person as an alternate or successor agent
There are some things your agent can never do:
- An agent cannot execute, revoke or modify a will or living will for you, even if you would like your agent to do this.
- If your agent disagrees with you about what should be done with your financial affairs, he or she cannot act against your instructions
Health Care Decisions
You cannot give the power to make health care decisions as part of a financial power of attorney document. If you want to have someone make health care decisions for you, you should write an Advance Directive. An Advance Directive is sometimes called a "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care."
Your health care agent can be the same person as your financial agent, you just need two documents to do that.
You can find more information about Advance Directives on our Advance Directives page.
Duties of the Agent
The agent has a duty to act on your behalf. Your agent should only do things that you want and that benefit you. Agents have a "fiduciary" duty to protect your interests. Agents can be held liable if they don't act in your interests, or if they don't do what you ask them to do.
You can have your agent give accountings about how they are handling your money. You can say how often they need to do this, such as every six months. The agent should list how they spent your money in the accounting. You can have these accountings sent to you or to someone else.