What is a Legal Representative?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A legal representative is a person who has been empowered with the authority to act on behalf of someone else. He or she protects the interests of clients and is charged with making decisions when his or her charges are unable to do so. Although someone in this position is sometimes an attorney, this is not required, although an attorney is needed to establish someone's status as a legal representative.

A legal representative is a person who has been empowered with the authority to act on behalf of someone else.
A legal representative is a person who has been empowered with the authority to act on behalf of someone else.

There are a number of ways for someone to become a legal representative. Because this position comes with responsibilities in addition to powers, it is generally not thrust upon someone. A person who is being considered for such a position is consulted and given an opportunity to decline or recommend someone else. Once someone has indicated willingness to serve in such a capacity, documentation can be filed to create a legal standing that allows that person to act as a representative.

Guardians can be appointed or may be given their powers by a child's parents.
Guardians can be appointed or may be given their powers by a child's parents.

One example of a legal representative is an executor, a person named in a will to oversee the disposition of the property of a person who is deceased. If the deceased does not have a will, a court can appoint a legal representative. Someone given power of attorney is another example of a legal representative. Powers of attorney can be used to make decisions about health care for people who are incapacitated or to provide a representative with the power to make choices on behalf of a person who does not have the mental capacity for consent and decision making.

An executor, who oversees the execution of a will, is one example of a legal representative.
An executor, who oversees the execution of a will, is one example of a legal representative.

Guardians are examples of legal representatives. Guardians can be appointed or may be given their powers by a child's parents, as for example when parents travel and create a temporary guardianship so that a friend at home can provide legal representation for their child. In addition to overseeing the welfare of minors, guardians can also supervise people, often with cognitive impairments and/or intellectual disabilities, whom the law deems incapable of handling their own affairs.

A legal representative may make health care decisions on behalf of another individual.
A legal representative may make health care decisions on behalf of another individual.

Legal representatives are tasked with putting the welfare of their charges first. They must make decisions in accordance with the expressed wishes of the people they represent while also balancing legal and ethical issues. If they fail to represent someone with due care, a court may revoke the representation and appoint someone more suitable to the case. Concerns that can arise with legal representation include financial and physical abuse of people who may not be able to report the abuse.

Power of attorney agents may be empowered to conduct financial transactions on behalf of an individual.
Power of attorney agents may be empowered to conduct financial transactions on behalf of an individual.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon320404

What is the salary of a legal representative?

manykitties2

Does anyone know the best way to choose a guardian for a member of the family with an intellectual disability?

We feel that our relative will need legal representation in order to have help with finance management, personal affairs, and health care requests.

We would like to make sure that our loved one is comfortable with the process and understands to the best of their ability that we are trying to help.

Do you think it is better to choose the person most familiar with the family member, or the one that has the most resources to help? Or can guardianship be shared?

drtroubles

If you are looking for legal representation in the form of giving someone power of attorney, make sure you fully understand what they will be doing and how long their powers last.

Giving someone the power of attorney over your finances when you are out of the country for example is a very serious matter. You must make sure the lawyer clearly states in your agreement what powers the person has, such as access to bank accounts, ability to sell property et cetera.

Also, you must make sure that you revoke the power of attorney when needed. It is not a good idea to give someone carte blanche control of any aspect of your life unless absolutely necessary.

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