Power of Attorney- Agents Should Know Their Responsibilities

Oftentimes attorneys draft a power of attorney for a principal without speaking to the agent who is being appointed.  To put it simply, a principal is the person
making the appointment of a third party, the agent, to act on his behalf in regard to financial transactions. Because of that disconnect, agents oftentimes
have no idea of their responsibilities when acting as an agent under a power of attorney.

An agent has a number of mandatory duties under Ohio law.  First, an agent must act in good faith- simply put honestly.  Second, an agent must act within the scope of his authority granted.  In order to act what the scope of his authority is an agent must read the power of attorney.  If the agent has questions about his authority, he should speak to an estate planning attorney prior to acting.  Some powers are relatively standard, like
banking transactions for instance, but many have to be expressly given like to power to change beneficiary designations and the power to gift.  Third, an agent must act in accordance with the principal’s reasonable expectations, if known, or in the principal’s best interest and to preserve the principal’s estate plan.  Hence, it would be wise for an agent to speak to a competent principal about his expectations and to familiarize himself with the principal’s estate plan.

Additional duties of an agent per Ohio law that can be waived in the power of attorney document are the duties of loyalty, avoidance of conflict of interest, to act with care, competence and diligence, to keep records of his actions, and to cooperate with the health care agent.  A power of attorney can state that an agent is
removed from liability for breach of any of the aforesaid duties unless the breach is done dishonestly, with improper motive or with reckless indifference to the purposes of the power of attorney, if known, or for the best interest of the principal.

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