Considerations when acting as a financial attorney
When someone has appointed you to act for them, there are several duties that the attorney should fulfil. The most important consideration is what is in that donor’s (the person for whom you are acting) “best interests”.
Firstly you must collate all the information, so that you can understand the situation. How can you manage someone’s financial affairs when you don’t know what assets and liabilities they have? The next thing is to work out how to manage those affairs going forward to get the best result for that person, whilst taking into account what they have done in the past.
So in the past they may have ethically invested and as long as this investment strategy is still going to provide a reasonable return, then that should continue. However if that person gave away a big proportion of their income each month to someone who should be more financially independent, then continuing with this strategy is not appropriate. The donor’s money is for them first, not anyone else. The only extension to that is other people to whom they have an obligation to provide for, such as minor children. That doesn’t mean that the donor cannot give gifts of any kind, but the gifts need to be for birthdays / Christmas / marriage etc, which is otherwise known as “on occasion”! Importantly gifts need to be appropriate to the size of the estate. It is considered to be in the best interests of the donor that their friends and family “remember them fondly”, but clearly within reasonable limits. There can at times be a conflict of interest between the donor and attorney, if they are spouses or parent and child, because the more spent on care, means the less the attorney will inherit! The money remains the donor’s, so the best interests of the donor, not the ultimate beneficiary is what is of paramount importance.
The next thing to ensure is that the donor is as well cared for and comfortable as can reasonably be managed, but clearly some of these decisions involve “caring” decisions, which are beyond the authority of the financial attorney, nevertheless whatever care is decided upon has to be paid for, which the attorney has the authority to deal with.
All the time, circumstances change, so for example on admission to a care home, that home might be able to meet that person’s needs, but 3 months later after a major deterioration, they may no longer be able to do so, in which case a new placement must be found.
Acting as an attorney can often be a lonely, difficult and thankless task. If you are an attorney and you need help, please contact me, I will be happy to assist you.