You have agreed to be named as Attorney in a Power of Attorney for Property (POAP). You know they trust you to act honestly, loyally and with integrity, strictly in their best interests at all times, respecting their right to privacy and confidentiality. You even realize and are comfortable with the record keeping aspects of this role. However, right now, the person who has appointed you doesn’t need any assistance. They have signed the POAP because they want peace of mind, knowing that should something happen, they will have someone they trust, looking after their affairs.
But what happens down the road, if suddenly you do need to step in? Are you prepared? Do you know what all the relevant information is or where all the ‘important’ papers are kept? What follows are some practical steps you can take now to prepare for the future. It is important to note that simply being named as an “Attorney” in a POAP does not mean that you must immediately act or start keeping records. Your responsibilities as Attorney commences on the day that you first start to act in your capacity as Attorney. However, even if you never act as an Attorney, due to the sudden death of the Grantor (the person who has appointed you), if you have followed these steps you will be able to assist the Grantor’s Executor (if it’s not yourself) with setting the deceased’s affairs in order.
Read the POAP
Review the POAP and know where the ORIGINAL is kept. (The original needs to be in your possession once you start to fully act as Attorney and form part of your records.) Make sure you understand any limitations or restrictions on your authority that may be set out in the POAP. POAPs can be ‘specific’ which means they specify exact transactions or assets that the Grantor is authorizing someone to assist them in managing. However, most POAPs are ‘general’ and this is the type we will be concerned with in the following discussion.
Inquire about the Will
This might seem a little premature, but knowing whether the Will contains instructions for specific bequests is information you will need to know once you start to perform your role as Attorney. You do not want to dispose of an item that turns out to have been identified in the Will as a bequest. This would create obvious problems not only with reference to your ability to perform the tasks of an Attorney adequately but also it could affect the dynamics of your relationship with the Grantor and related parties. At the very least, the Grantor should identify to you any specific bequests they have documented in their Will and you should know where the Grantor has placed their Will for safe-keeping.
Develop a Comprehensive List of Property
You will need to ensure you have a comprehensive list of the Grantor’s property, or at the very least have confidence in your ability to create one should you start to act as Attorney. This list should include all their assets and liabilities such as bank and investment accounts, safety deposit boxes, business loans, insurance policies and ownership deeds to house, cottage and cars. For bank and investment accounts you will need account numbers, addresses, contact names of account managers and passwords.
Know about active Credit and Debit Cards
Ask about credit and debit cards that are in use. Enquire about any passwords/pass codes connected with their use. You should also know where the Grantor keeps their credit/debit cards such as in their wallet in their bedside table or bureau drawer. Security issues may need to be addressed if the Grantor has care-givers/visitors coming in and out of their residence. While not yet acting in your capacity as their Attorney, as a trusted friend, you can make known observations about the security of their cards.
Enquire about Activity not on the Bank Statements
It is possible that there might be arrangements between the Grantor and other people regarding the use of their assets. For example, a long-standing practice of loaning the cottage to particular family members or friends for a specified amount of time each summer. You need to be aware of such agreements and the Grantor’s wish that they continue or not. Also, are there any conditions or expectations of the visitor to the cottage with respect to a financial contribution or re-stocking of the pantry? These types of arrangements should be written down along with the details.
Obtain contact information of key people
Be sure to obtain contact information of the person’s lawyer and accountant. Also, knowing where copies of the last couple of tax returns are kept could prove invaluable should incapacity happen suddenly and you are left with having to ensure annual tax returns continue to be filed.
Make a point of reviewing these questions annually with the Grantor – just to make sure there are no changes. Taking time now with your relative/friend to go over the above points will ensure that should the time come when you do have to step in and act as their Attorney, you both will have peace of mind that their property and financial affairs will continue to be handled efficiently and competently.