Estate PlanninG

Saying No to Power of Attorney Responsibilities

Not everyone is ready to be an agent under a power of attorney. The role comes with massive responsibility and can take up a lot of time. Especially if it’s something you don’t want to be doing, it can feel like an incredible burden.

There are two main types of powers of attorney: financial and medical. As an agent under a power of attorney, you act in place of the “principal” (the person executing the power of attorney) for financial or medical purposes when and if that person ever becomes incapacitated.

If you’re acting as an agent under a financial power of attorney, you’re responsible for taking whatever investment and spending measures the principal would take himself or herself. Unless there are limitations within the power of attorney document itself, you can open bank accounts, withdraw funds, trade stock, pay bills, and cash checks. On top of all this, you have to keep good records of all your dealings.

With a medical power of attorney, you have to step in and make medical decisions for the principal that you believe they would’ve wanted. This means you may have to make decisions about whether to start or stop a particular treatment, which doctors or specialists to choose and even whether to continue or stop life support.

As you can see, being an agent under a power of attorney is a huge responsibility. Before agreeing, ask yourself if you’re able to devote the time and energy to the job, and whether you can emotionally handle making the decisions. Think, too, if there are any family issues (like disagreements among siblings) that would make serving difficult.

It’s a completely valid, and sometimes responsible, choice to decide against serving as an agent under a power of attorney. If you choose to decline, the best thing to do is have an honest discussion with the person executing the power of attorney. Simply tell them you’re not the best person to act in this role. If you’ve already been appointed and you decide you want to resign, the power of attorney document may specify the steps necessary. If these steps aren’t spelled out, the best thing to do is write a letter of resignation and send it to the person who executed the power of attorney and any co- or successor agents.

Saying “no” is a little more complicated if the person who executed the power of attorney is already incapacitated. Ideally, the power of attorney document has named successor agents. In that case, you can refuse the job and the successor agent can take over. If there are no successor agents, a guardian may need to be appointed for the principal. An interested party - another family member or friend - could petition the court for guardianship, or if no one is available to take on the job, the principal may become a ward of the state.

If you’re looking to refuse or resign as an agent under a power of attorney, contact us today. We can help advise you on the best way to do just that. Call Santaella Legal Group, serving San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton & the Tri-Valley area, at (925) 831-4840.

Read more about power of attorney documents here:

What is a Springing Financial Power of Attorney?

Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning From Seniors

Why It’s So Important For Your Family to Have an Estate Plan