When a loved one designates a New Jersey relative or friend to be a financial power of attorney, the selected agent may have many questions about what that means. Basically, a power of attorney has the legal responsibility for acting on behalf of the principal if he or she should ever become incapacitated and unable to handle those financial matters. Naming a power of attorney is an important part of estate planning, and it is essential that the agent understands his or her duties and responsibilities.

Waiting until the principal declines in health to examine the estate’s assets and liabilities may be a serious mistake. Instead, advisors recommend that a power of attorney agent begin right away to assess the accounts, bills, debts and income and perhaps even evaluate the spending patterns of the principal. The agent and the principal would be wise to meet periodically to discuss the principal’s financial situation and to learn how to access accounts and information if the time should come to step in.

If the principal should become too ill to manage his or her finances and legal matters, the power of attorney agent has the authority to take over. This includes paying bills, keeping the home and other assets secure, paying taxes and handling other estate planning matters. The agents should keep careful records of every transaction as proof that he or she acted with scrupulous care and with the best interests of the principal in mind.

Choosing someone who will take this care and attention is not always easy. Many in New Jersey seek the advice and guidance of an estate planning attorney. Having a power of attorney in place can provide peace of mind that important matters will be in good hands.