Adults of all ages may benefit from adding powers of attorney to their estate plans. You may feel more confident about protecting your property and your health when you know that there will be someone to make medical choices for you or pay your bills in the event of an emergency.
Including proper instructions in your powers of attorney will be important, as the terms you include will limit how and when someone uses the authority that you grant in those documents. However, there is another decision that is even more important.
The agent or attorney-in-fact that you name to act on your behalf will play a key role in your protection when you are at your most vulnerable. How do you choose the right person to serve as your attorney-in-fact?
The right choice depends on your means
If you are a college student who just learned that there is no one with authorization to access your medical records or speak on your behalf in an emergency because you are an adult but not yet married, naming your parents as your attorneys-in-fact might be the appropriate solution. You can count on them to pay your bills using your bank account and to make medical choices on your behalf.
However, once you are an established adult, especially when your parents reach their golden years, you may need to look at someone closer to your age to accept that authority. Eventually, when you start thinking about using powers of attorney to protect yourself from the risk of a guardianship later in life, you may even want to name an attorney in fact who is noticeably younger than you so that they will still have the ability to provide you with support as you age.
Beyond the age of the person you select, your relationship with them and their overall degree of responsibility and trustworthiness are key considerations. Someone who has always been kind to you but has a history of substance abuse might misuse their authority to misappropriate medication or money, for example.
You need to consider personality and personal history carefully so that the people you name will act with only your best interests in mind. Making careful decisions when creating powers of attorney will protect you now and for years to come in the future.