“I’m thrilled to announce I’ve been appointed Mum’s Power of Attorney,” said no-one ever in the history of sibling rivalry.

While many of us end up saying that – well, perhaps not the thrilled part – how many of us know what to expect and why.

Addressing the what, a Power of Attorney (PoA) is a legal document through which one person, the principal, provides authority to another, to act on their behalf. It provides powers to make decisions about personal matters like, property, financial obligations, assets, investments, etc.

Imagine you’re in an accident rendering you unable to manage your affairs. You’d want someone trustworthy to manage those affairs with your best interests in mind, right? Well, that’s the why of it.

The various types of PoAs can differ from state to state, but chiefly they are:

  • General: You make financial and legal decisions for a set period of time, e.g. the principal is taking an overseas holiday and needs someone to manage their affairs at home. Subtext: you’re never too young to appoint a PoA!
  • Financial and Legal: You make financial and legal decisions for the principal who is unable to make such decisions for themselves due to being unconscious, mentally incapacitated, etc.
  • Medical: You make decisions around medical treatment the principal is subjected to, including surgery, health and where and how they live.
  • Guardianship: Provides a sense of security for a person who cannot make lifestyle, health or medical decisions for themselves.

These PoAs become invalid upon the death of the principal or after a specified time. However, the Enduring PoA extends indefinitely – dangerous if you were incapacitated but recovered.

Agreeing to become Mum’s PoA is a huge responsibility – you’re probably already Googling how to get out of it. But she trusts you above others. She thinks you’re dependable, honest and will faithfully represent her – is she wrong?

It’s a great honour. You don’t just want to tick the boxes, you want to prove she made the right decision, despite your siblings looking daggers at you.

In discharging your duties go above and beyond by remembering:

It’s not about you

You may not agree with what Mum wants, but you must be prepared to carry it out. Being a PoA means conscientiously representing her when she is unable to represent herself.

Be assertive

That’s assertive, not aggressive – easily confused when the pressure’s on. Communication is key. Be articulate, don’t waver, stumble or bargain, just be clear about what you’re doing and why.

Be decisive

Understanding your mum’s expectations means you’ll make confident decisions. Ditherers attract people eager to share their opinion and cause you to question Mum’s wishes. But she appointed you for a reason; you’re a big kid now, get on with it!

Sibling – or other – rivalry

Family or friends not named on the PoA might try to coerce you into making decisions you’re uncomfortable with. Be polite – family get-togethers can be tedious if no-one’s talking to you – and explain that it’s Mum’s wishes that count.

Conflicts of interest

If you’re emotional or prone to being influenced, you’ll find it difficult to carry-out your duties. Similarly, if you’re unmotivated or seriously disagree with your Mum’s wishes this probably isn’t the gig for you.

Your solicitor can help draw-up an appropriate PoA for your situation, ensuring it’s legal, specifies from when your powers take effect and what those duties are, including your mum’s wishes and expectations.

Representing someone as their PoA is a position of power not given lightly. The fact that someone has seen such admirable characteristics in you is something to be proud of.