If you are ever asked to serve as an agent under a power of attorney, there are several issues you will need to consider before you accept. Serving as an agent comes with both responsibilities and privileges. The person asking you to serve as an agent trusts you enough to offer you the position, but you shouldn’t accept until you have a better understanding of what it entails. Here are some commonly asked questions many people have about serving as an agent under a power of attorney.
What will be my responsibility as an agent?
That depends. No two power of attorney documents are identical, but all of them will state what decision-making rights you will receive. Powers of attorney are typically divided into two main types: health care and financial. Most powers of attorney will require you to make various types of decisions in certain circumstances. Some powers of attorney are broad in the authority they convey, while others are more limited. In any event, you will have to read the power of attorney document thoroughly to better understand what you will be required to do and what kinds of decisions you can, and cannot, make on behalf of the principal.
Do I have to accept the nomination?
Absolutely not. No one is ever under an obligation to create a power of attorney. Similarly, if you are asked to serve as an agent under a power of attorney, you have no legal obligation to accept the appointment. Though it’s flattering to be asked, you should only accept if you are comfortable serving in the position.
Can I quit or resign after I accept?
Yes. Most powers of attorney address what the agent has to do if he or she wants to resign the position. This usually requires you to notify the principal of your desire to resign.
Can I be held liable for my actions?
Yes. As an agent, you have an obligation to act in the best interests of the principal. The law calls this a fiduciary duty. If you violate your duty and misuse your position to take advantage of the principal, serve your own interests at the expense of the principal’s interests, or otherwise abuse your authority, you can be held personally, and even criminally, liable.
Can I be fired?
Yes. Only a competent adult who is capable of making decisions can create a power of attorney in the state of California. As a competent adult, the principal also retains the ability to terminate your authority at any time. The principal doesn’t need a reason to do this, and can fire you whenever he or she likes.