Common Family Concerns Around Power of Attorney

Who Should Be Chosen as the Agent?

Perhaps the largest source of conflict and concern is who is named as the agent, because of the power involved in the position. Obviously, whoever is creating the power of attorney should select only someone they trust to have power of attorney over their financial affairs. But there are other things to consider besides trustworthiness:

  • A power-of-attorney agent should have a level of financial capability to meet the needs of older adults’ financial affairs; the more complicated their finances, the more financially sophisticated the agent should be. If the agent can’t handle things and has to go out and hire lawyers and managers, the money to pay for them would come out of the family’s assets.
  • It may help if the agent is geographically close to the people involved and their property or business assets.
  • It’s a good idea to choose someone who can give sufficient time and energy to these financial duties and who is likely to keep up the responsibilities over time. (Even so, it’s important to name an alternate or successor agent in the document, to address the problem of a principal agent who eventually becomes unable to do the job.)
  • If your parents or others execute a general power of attorney to become effective while they’re still competent, they should not choose someone who is likely to try to take over more responsibility than they’re ready to give up.
  • It’s important to choose one person, instead of a group of people. It may be tempting to give this power to all the adult children as a group, but this can lead to conflict and poor decision-making. Instead, name the one adult child who is able to collaborate with all the others the best, and then make a decision. Alternatively, it might be a good idea to choose another adult to act as an agent who is not one of the adult children but can work well with all of them.

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