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02-2020 |When Should I Consider Changing My Power of Attorney?

When Should I Consider Changing My Power of Attorney? (Published 02-2020)

At one time or another, many of us will decide to designate a trusted person to serve as our power of attorney; this is a person who can be extremely helpful to us in the event we become incapacitated.  This initial decision as to who should serve in this role is a significant decision that requires a lot of thought. It is also important to regularly review whether the person chosen remains the right person to continue in that role. If not, then it’s time to change the power of attorney. Of course, it’s highly advisable to discuss these matters with a qualified estate planning lawyer.

What Is A Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney grants the person named the right to make important decisions on your behalf. This does not mean that he or she has carte blanche to make decisions. The person who you name as your power of attorney has an overriding legal obligation (known as a fiduciary duty) to make decisions that are in your best interests.

Legally, even if the agent has the power to act, he or she does not have the right to act unless his or her actions serve your interests. This is the reason that it is so important to choose a power of attorney whom you trust implicitly. This should be a person whom you know to be trustworthy, reliable, and of utmost integrity. While having business and financial savvy can be useful, a power of attorney with integrity will find the necessary advice to make informed decisions on your behalf.

Having a power of attorney in place offers valuable protection just in case you ever need it. It is a flexible tool that can be adapted to your own unique needs. You can make a power of attorney effective immediately, or it can go into effect only when you need it and are no longer able to manage your own affairs.

When Should I Consider Changing My Power of Attorney?     

The fact is that our life circumstances change, and it’s important to update estate planning tools accordingly. There are several reasons why you might want to consider changing the person named as your power of attorney, including:

  • You’ve moved, or the agent has moved, and the arrangement is no longer convenient.
  • You’ve determined that someone else is a better fit to serve in your best interests.
  • You’ve married and want your spouse to be selected as your power of attorney.
  • You have reason to doubt the integrity of your current agent.
  • Your designated power of attorney has become ill or their life circumstances have changed, such that they can no longer devote the time to serve as your power of attorney.

When Considering a Change to My Power of Attorney, Should I Talk to an Estate Planning Lawyer First?

There are many reasons why you might consider changing your power of attorney, but it’s important to act with careful consideration. A power of attorney is arguably one of the most important tools in your estate plan, and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help ensure that you make well-informed decisions throughout the estate planning process, and that your designated power of attorney will serve your best interests.

Matthew V. Piwowar is a Grand Rapids estate planning attorney.  Mr. Piwowar is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, and the State Bar Probate & Estate Planning Section, the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, and the Michigan Forum of Estate Planners.

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