When someone asks you to serve as an agent or attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, that person trusts you enough to give you power over his or her affairs. As an agent you will be responsible for making certain types of decisions. Because you will be making these decisions on another person’s behalf, and perhaps when that person is incapacitated, you need to fully understand what your role as an agent will require of you. Here are several questions people often have about serving as an agent under a power of attorney.
Do I need to be a lawyer to be an attorney-in-fact?
No. Though the terminology is sometimes confusing, you do not have to be a lawyer in order to act as an agent or an attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney. You will simply be acting as someone’s representative. There is no requirement that you have experience with or expertise in the law.
What will my responsibilities be?
That depends entirely on the power of attorney document itself. Every power of attorney is different, and in order to understand what you’ll be doing as an agent you need to understand what the document contains. The types of decisions you will be responsible for making will be outlined in the document itself. Sometimes your responsibilities will be quite broad, while other times they may be very limited.
What if I’m unclear about my responsibilities?
You should always talk to the person who is granting power of attorney, called the principal, if you are unclear about what he or she wants you to do. As an agent, you are responsible for doing what is in the principal’s best interests, and for doing what he or she would want you to do.
However, being clear about what the principal desires is not always possible. For example, you might be asked to serve as an agent after the principal has become incapacitated and is unable to communicate. In such as situation you need to speak to an attorney about your options in deciding what the best course of action would be.
How long will I have to serve?
This too depends on the power of attorney document, but also on your desires, as well as the desires of the principal. As an agent, your principal can fire you any time he or she wishes. You also have the ability to resign your position as long as you do so in the manner outlined by the power of attorney document. Further, some powers of attorney can state a limited time in which you have to act.