Your loved one named you as her Power of Attorney years ago. Now, however, you’re unable or unwilling to serve in that capacity. What should you do?

Doing nothing is not an option. You can’t leave your loved one without a competent person to make decisions on her behalf and care for her.

Now take a deep breath. You’re under no legal obligation to serve as POA even though you’ve been designated. That’s because most POAs list a backup (alternative) to cover situations in which the first person named (in this case, you), cannot or will not serve.

If you don’t have a copy of the POA, get one. Notify the backup person in writing that you can’t be your loved one’s POA. Ask for confirmation that the backup received the notice. Some attorneys recommend that you write a resignation letter, have it notarized, and file it with the agency where your loved one filed her POA. That agency is likely the county Register of Deeds. Check with an attorney in your loved one’s area for the proper procedure.

If there is no backup or no one is willing to be POA, you must petition the court (in the county where your loved one lives) to appoint a guardian for her. The social services agency in her county will have information on how this process works. Be prepared to hire an attorney for help.