Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lessons From a WWII Veteran -- Use Caution When Selecting a Power of Attorney

Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2013

Recent news stories out of Ohio underscore the importance of selecting a power of attorney for finance.  In the story a WWII veteran transferred power of attorney for finances to his daughter, and then the daughter transferred his house to her and her husband's names.  A few years later a family rift developed, and the daughter sought to evict the father from his home.  Thanks to his granddaughter and an on-line fundraising campaign, he was able to buy back the home he'd lived in for over 50 years.  It is hard to believe that members of the Greatest Generation could be treated in such a manner, but the reality of life can often be harsh.

From my vantage point behind a lawyer's desk, I would keep the following in mind when it comes to nominating someone to act as your power of attorney for finance:

  • use a form that says the power is transferred upon your incapacity (legal standards will vary from state to state) as opposed to transferring that power immediately.  Sometimes this is not the ideal situation for an elderly person who is slowly declining and wants to off load some of the more mundane tasks in life;
  • recognize that the people you are considering may have financial pressures you are unaware of -- gambling debt, job loss, maxed out credit cards, a spendthrift spouse all tend to be things folks keep quite and do not share.  Really think about who it is you are appointing;
  • include a back-up in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act; 
  • consider friends or professionals (a CPA for example) in your life, a power of attorney need not be your blood relative;
  • select someone who enjoys tasks related to balancing the checkbook, paying the taxes, etc; and
  • look for a person who is diplomatic -- someone who will not set of a fire storm of emotion during an already emotional time.
This is not a complete list, but some of the important concepts that are at the front of my mind today.  Remember, a blog post is not legal advice.  Please consult a lawyer in your state for advice specific to your situation. Visiting an attorney is not fun, but putting these thoughts on paper is taking control of the situation.  And who better to do that than yourself.

No comments: