Many Tennessee residents take the important and wise step of appointing power of attorney agents as part of their estate plan. Hopefully, if a loved one appointed you to this role, you and the person were able to discuss what this would entail. If not, you do not have to panic as a variety of informational resources and assistance is available.
If your loved one seems to be reaching a point of incapacitation, such as due to a serious health condition that has left him or her unable to speak or with diminished mental capacity, your time to step in and make decisions on your loved one’s behalf may have come. Understandably, you may feel a bit uncertain about what you can and cannot do.
What type of POA designation exists?
If you do not fully understand your role, you may first want to determine whether your loved one appointed you as his or her power of attorney for medical affairs, financial matters or both. In either case, your loved one may have included specific instructions of actions you cannot take as the POA agent, but if not, you still cannot carry out any of the following actions:
- Violating your fiduciary duty to your loved one by not acting in his or her best interest
- Giving your responsibilities under the POA to someone else
- Making decisions for your loved one after his or her passing
Of course, if you recently learned that your loved one appointed you as agent and you have no interest in the role, you can decline. However, the court would have to appoint someone else in your place unless your loved one still has the mental capacity to name a new agent.
What can you do?
When it comes to your responsibilities under the POA, what you can do for your loved one depends on whether you are a financial or medical POA agent. If you will handle financial matters, you could carry out any of the following examples of actions:
- Collecting any debts owed to your loved one
- Accessing your loved one’s accounts to pay for medical expenses, his or her household bills, and the like
- Managing your loved one’s property
- Filing his or her taxes
You could also have other financial responsibilities not listed here. Additionally, if you are to handle your loved one’s medical decisions, you may be responsible for the following activities:
- Choosing which doctors your loved one sees
- Deciding what medical care and treatment your loved one receives
- Deciding where your loved one lives, which could mean staying in his or her own home, moving into an assisted living facility, or possibly even living with you
- Making sure your loved one’s hygiene matters are taken care of, which could happen through your personal efforts or another relatives’ or through an in-home care service
Again, these are only a few examples of common responsibilities. While it may seem overwhelming, you may want to remember that you can seek clarification of your duties and responsibilities and choose to decline the role if desired by going through proper legal channels.