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Choosing an Attorney-in-Fact

Naming a financial power of attorney, known in New York as an attorney-in-fact, is an important element of a good estate plan. If you become injured or ill or are for any reason unable to handle your finances, your attorney-in-fact has the power to act on your behalf. This individual can, for example, pay bills, access bank accounts to make deposits, supervise investments, collect insurance or government benefits, and oversee any other money matters. Without a document naming an attorney-in-fact, family members may have to go to court to be granted the ability to take charge of an incapacitated loved one’s financial affairs.

The person named as your attorney-in-fact does not have to be a lawyer. In fact, when choosing a person to act as an agent, the most important characteristics to look for are trustworthiness, organizational and management skills, and good common sense. Depending on the complexity of the estate, it may be a good idea to name someone familiar with financial matters, as well as someone familiar with your wishes and personal habits. Make sure your attorney-in-fact has access to all necessary information, such as accounts, PIN numbers, and passwords that will be necessary should he or she have to begin making financial decisions on your behalf.