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Ask the expert: How do I exercise power of attorney over a checking account?
Q: A few years ago, my father set up a durable power of attorney, which allows me to take charge of his financial affairs. I didn't think much of it at the time, but now he's ninety and things are starting to slip. How does it work if I want to start exercising control with this power of attorney?
A: This kind of thing is always a tough decision - seniors have to choose very carefully when giving someone control over their financial affairs, but on the other hand, waiting until the senior citizen can no longer make sound financial decisions can make the situation very messy.
The ideal thing now would be to get your father to agree that it is time for you to take over his affairs. Explain your concerns to him, and remind him of why he put the power of attorney in place to begin with. If he doesn't want to feel out of the loop, you can agree to meet with him regularly to go over all transactions and account balances.
Speaking of transactions and account balances, although you are not required to by law, it is a good idea to keep good records of any activity you initiate, and keep his finances completely separate from your own. That way you will be able to give a clear accounting to your father or anyone else who expresses concern.
You should be aware of your father's complete financial situation, but his checking account is probably the most important point of contact. Visit your father's bank with a copy of the power of attorney, and make sure they add you as a signatory to the account. They may ask you to sign an affidavit attesting that the power of attorney is still in effect, but otherwise this document should be enough to get you set up to exercise authority over the checking account.
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