Who to name in your power of attorney

Most advice doesn’t work without context, so I will tell you a story based on my recent client’s situation.

My client, Mrs. N, is a retired nurse. She has one wonderful, reliable and loving daughter Ann. Ann is a primary school teacher. I met with Mrs. N and her daughter Ann in the course of preparing a will for Mrs. N. We had a long, two hour meeting. During the meeting, Ann took many notes on her cell phone. Mrs. N intended to name Ann as her power of attorney. Ann was an obvious choice for that role. Mrs. N lives alone and has been divorced for decades. Ann is her only child. The mother and the daughter are very close. Ann is very reliable and responsible.

When choosing a person as attorney for personal care, it is important that you name somebody who is very close to you. In this case, Ann knew her mother’s health history as well as her wishes relating to quality of life. So if her mother was in a hospital and unable to make decisions for herself, Ann would know, based on her familiarity with her mother and her way of life, which procedure or treatment would work for Mrs. N and which wouldn’t. Ann is also the person most likely to be visiting her mother in the hospital and the person who would provide care at home while her mother is sick.

Similarly, Ann is a perfect choice for the role of attorney for property. She is trustworthy and responsible. Her mother had often left her in charge of her house when she went away on trips or work terms away from home. She could trust Ann completely. I believe that trust is the most important factor to guide you in your choice of attorney for property. After all, you are naming a person who will do your finances for you when you are old and frail and will make all property decisions for you. Often people name a family member who is good with finances. Knowledge of finances is useful, however naming a busy business person who will not have time to attend to your needs, is not that helpful. You just need to name a trustworthy, responsible person who cares about you.

Through our discussion both my client Mrs. N and her daughter Ann were able to imagine how the role of the power of attorney would play out. They could understand what the power of attorney document was designed to do for them. Ann could anticipate the responsibility that would be coming her way. Mrs. N could rest assured that Ann would be there should Mrs. N need her help, and that a document existed allowing other persons to rely on Mrs. N’s choice.