Later this month, green shamrocks and Irish jokes will abound. Pubs will suddenly be even more popular; diners will put corned beef and cabbage on their menus. You’ll even start seeing images of leprechauns everywhere, those mischievous elves with hidden pots of gold. There’s something about the idea of leprechauns that seems to appeal to Americans. Maybe it’s their knack for privacy and security. After all, nobody ever finds the leprechauns’ treasure; it’s locked away, inaccessible, forever.
It’s surprising how many seemingly-ordinary people aspire to be similar to leprechauns that way. Of course it’s important to keep your assets safe, and to maintain the security of your private information. Still, if you’re in the hospital or otherwise unable to manage your own financial affairs, shouldn’t someone be able to help you? If it’s time to pay your mortgage, shouldn’t someone be able to write the check from your account and make sure your house doesn’t go into foreclosure while you’re ill?
That’s the purpose of giving a trusted person your financial Power of Attorney. It can be a “Durable Power of Attorney”: in that case, the person you choose (your “agent”) retains the ability to access and use your financial information for your benefit. Or, if you prefer, it can be a “Springing Power of Attorney” (springing into effect only when you aren’t available, and subsiding again when you’re ready to take over).
If you have a revocable living trust, your successor trustee already has your financial power of attorney. He or she can step in whenever necessary; usually, when two doctors certify that you’re incapable of taking care of business by yourself. If you have only a will, however – you DO have a will, right?? – spend a little extra time to designate an agent to take care of your finances in case of need.
Who to choose? Well, your flighty cousin Bobo and your distant friends in Timbuktu may be wonderful people, but they’re not good choices here. This is going to be the person who takes over your daily financial affairs; choose someone close enough to be able to help easily, and someone who won’t be overwhelmed by the job. Your family members, your friends, your lawyer, your bank – there are many possible choices.
Just don’t depend on the luck of the Irish to take care of it for you. Keep in mind that Ireland is the source of the old proverb: “The lesson learned by a tragedy is a lesson never forgotten.” After all, how powerful do you think that four-leafed clover really is?