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Placing limits on a representative’s authority

Granting someone the authority to act on your behalf is not a decision to make lightly. Even if you love and trust the other person, they are still independent people capable of making mistakes and bad choices.

As such, it can be wise to consider placing limits on the authority of people appointed to specific roles, including people with power of attorney.

What kind of limits are there?

Depending on your wishes and the people appointed to various roles in your estate plan, you may need to limit their authority so that they do not compromise your legacy. Some of the limits you might want to put in place include:

  • Appointing one party to make personal decisions and another person to make financial decisions
  • Opting for a general power of attorney versus an enduring power of attorney, so their authority ceases if you become incapacitated
  • Setting up trusts for specific purposes (e.g., a child’s education or charitable gifts)
  • Directing representatives on how to distribute assets rather than letting them decide
  • Including expiration dates on representation agreements
  • Specifying your wishes in supporting planning documents, such as advance care directives

These and other restrictions can ensure that the people with the authority to make decisions on your behalf understand and respect your wishes.

Discussing your plans with important people

Your estate plans are highly personal. However, that does not mean that you must keep the details of your wishes behind lock and key. In fact, sharing your decisions with trusted individuals can help you strengthen your wishes and make them easier to carry out.

Talking to your lawyer, partner, or close family members about your wishes can accomplish many objectives. 

  1. It allows them to ask questions and get clarification.
  2. It gives you the time and space to provide context and explain your decisions.
  3. It can help you identify any red flags or hesitations regarding whether a decision-maker is willing and able to fulfil the role.
  4. It can highlight possible gaps in your plan that could give parties more authority than you intended.

These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they can have an immense impact on how parties understand their duties and responsibilities.

Substitute decision-makers can have a dramatic impact on your estate and well-being. Putting certain restrictions in place can ensure they do not jeopardize your wishes or the legacy you leave behind.