Who shall I appoint as my attorney?

Published by Vanessa Crosby on March 10, 2011

So you’ve decided you need to complete powers of attorney. The most important decision you make will, of course, be who you appoint as your attorney or attorneys.

The attorney must be at least 20 years of age, not a bankrupt and not subject to a personal order or a property order. You will commonly appoint a spouse, one or more children or any other family member, friend or some professional advisor. In choosing an attorney it is of course crucial that you have trust in the person to whom you are giving the power. There are also a range of personal attributes as well as other practical considerations to take into account. Does the attorney have the skills, judgment and time required to handle your affairs? Is the attorney likely to have the skills to deal with others, including family members, caregivers and financial institutions? Is the attorney likely to be of a suitable age to manage your affairs when required? Is the attorney likely to have sufficient empathy with your personal care and welfare needs and wishes? How likely is the attorney to be willing to consult with others caring for you or having an interest your welfare? What is the likelihood that the attorney will remain in your vicinity?

Two sensible recommendations are that different persons be appointed as attorney for personal care and welfare from those appointed to property. The skills needed for looking after someone’s financial affairs can be quite different from those required for looking after personal care and well-being. The attorney for personal care and welfare should not be someone who will benefit eventually from your estate. This alleviates the risk that someone who stands to inherit money or property under your will may be reluctant to enter into a commitment to rest home care, because the costs will reduce the eventual inheritance under the estate.

You may also consider appointing different attorneys for different purposes. For instance you might appoint one person as attorney for shares and investments and another as attorney for a bank account or all bank accounts.

You should also consider the appointment of joint property attorneys. This may be desirable because you can then end up with joint attorneys with complementary skills. Continuity can be preserved should one attorney die or cease to remain mentally competent and having joint attorneys can reduce the risk that the powers will be abused particularly in respect of financial matters.

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