A power of attorney document allows the attorney to step into the shoes of the grantor for the purpose of making decisions and transactions on the grantor's behalf. This obligation is a very serious one. By performing the role diligently and sensitively, the attorney will ensure that the grantor has the most comfortable, enjoyable and safe life that the grantor can afford. On the other hand, extreme harm can result to the grantor and to others if the attorney does not act diligently and honestly. Therefore, the highest standards of honesty, integrity and trust are demanded from the attorney.
An attorney is required to:
- act honestly;
- act in good faith;
- act in the best interests of the grantor;
- act with the care that could reasonably be expected of a person of the attorney's experience and expertise; and
- "wherever possible, take into consideration the wishes of the grantor in carrying out his or her duties under an enduring power of attorney."
As an attorney, you are allowed to do on the grantor's behalf anything in relation to his or her property that the person could do if capable, except make a will. Unless the power of attorney restricts you, you are allowed to do the following on the grantor's behalf:
- open and close bank accounts;
- redirect pensions and other income;
- apply for benefits or supplementary income to which the person is entitled;
- choose pension options;
- deal with investments;
- collect debts;
- pay bills;
- buy goods and services;
- start or defend law suits, if there are financial implications;
- sell, store or dispose of personal belongings; and
- maintain or sell a house or vehicle.
You do not have the authority to change the grantor's will or make a new will for the grantor. Gifts may only be provided if the funds are not otherwise required to meet the grantor's needs and the attorney has reasonable grounds to believe the grantor would have made the gift if the grantor had capacity. Further, unless authorized by the court, the grantor may not give gifts larger than the prescribed amount, which is currently $1,000 in total for all gifts per year.
Passing control of a grantor's income and assets to an attorney does not mean that the attorney assumes ownership of the income and assets. Ownership remains in the name of the grantor. He or she is simply responsible for managing, in the best way possible, what the grantor has.