As Martina’s agent, you might pay bills, oversee bank accounts, and pay for things she needs. You might also make investments, pay taxes, collect rent or unpaid debts, get insurance if needed, cancel any unneeded insurance, and do other things written in the power of attorney.
You have a duty to manage Martina’s money and property very carefully. In doing so, you need to keep a detailed accounting. You must show Martina this accounting if she asks for it. Your accounting should include the money or property you received or paid on Martina’s behalf, all of Martina’s money and property that you managed, and your decisions regarding Martina’s money or property.
Remember, it is important that you use good judgment and common sense. As a fiduciary, you must be even more careful with Martina’s money than you might be with your own!
Follow these guidelines to help you make careful decisions:
- List Martina’s money, property, and debts. To make careful decisions, you need to know what Martina owns and owes. Your list might include:
» Checking and savings accounts;
» Pension, retirement, annuity, rental, public benefit, or other income;
» Real estate;
» Cars and other vehicles;
» Insurance policies;
» Trusts for which Martina is a beneficiary;
» Stocks and bonds;
» Jewelry, furniture, and any other items of value; and
» Unpaid credit card bills and other outstanding loans.
- Protect Martina’s property. Keep her money and property safe. You may need to put valuable items in safe deposit boxes, change locks on property, and make sure Martina’s home or other property is insured. Make sure bank accounts earn interest if possible and have low or no fees. Review bank and other financial statements promptly. If Martina owns any real estate, keep it in good condition.
- Invest carefully. If you are making investment decisions for Martina, talk to a financial professional. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) provides tips on choosing a financial professional in this Investor Bulletin. Discuss your choices and goals for investing based on Martina’s needs and values.
- Pay bills and taxes on time. Make sure bills are sent to you. Review bills and bank statements promptly.
- Buy insurance if necessary and cancel any insurance policies that Martina does not need.
- Collect debts. Find out if anyone owes Martina money, and try to collect it.
- Take steps to have the power of attorney accepted. Sometimes banks or other businesses won’t do what you, acting as Martina’s agent, want them to do. A bank may refuse to accept the power of attorney and want Martina to sign its own form. This is a problem if Martina has lost the ability to act for herself. As soon as you need to act as Martina’s agent, contact any businesses, such as banks, or people that she deals with and give them copies of the power of attorney. Never give away the original document. Instead, give them certified copies of Martina’s power of attorney. To get a certified copy of Martina’s power of attorney, find a notary, make a copy of Martina’s power of attorney, and ask the notary to certify that the copy is a true copy of Martina’s power of attorney. If someone will not accept your authority as Martina’s agent, talk to a supervisor. If they still won’t accept it, talk to a lawyer.