Some people first talk to an estate planning attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina because they have been asked to serve as an agent under a power of attorney, or POA. If you find yourself in this position, there are some issues you should understand to better familiarize yourself with powers of attorney, and what will be required of you as an agent.
POA, Agents, and Attorneys-in-Fact
A power of attorney is a document. Through the POA, a person known as a principal chooses someone to represent the principal’s interests. The person the principal appoints is known alternatively as an agent or an attorney-in-fact. If you accept the nomination to become someone’s agent under a POA, you and the principal enter into a principle–agent relationship. This is a special kind of relationship in the law, and one that imposes specific responsibilities on you.
The first thing you need to do after learning that you’ve been asked to serve as an agent is to go over the power of attorney documents thoroughly. The POA will detail the extent of your authority, as well as cover other important details about your capacity as an agent. If you have any questions about what the document contains, the terms it uses, or are unclear about anything, you need to speak to the principal about your concerns. You should also talk to a lawyer for advice.
Every POA gives an agent specific responsibilities and rights. The authority you obtain as an agent will depend entirely on the terms contained within the POA document.
Most powers of attorney convey one of two types of authority: financial or health care. Through financial power of attorney you will have the ability to manage the principal’s finances or enter into financial agreements on his or her behalf. Health care powers of attorney, on the other hand, gives you the ability to make medical decisions when the principal is unable to do so on his or her own.
As an agent, you owe a duty to act in the principal’s best interests. You have to act diligently, competently, and in good faith. You cannot abuse your authority to gain advantage for yourself, and must act with loyalty towards your principal. If you fail to meet your fiduciary responsibility, the principal can hold you liable for your actions.
Representation and Questions
Of course, there’s a lot more to acting as an agent under POA than what we’ve outlined here. If you have any questions about being an agent, you need to speak to your attorney for legal advice.