In this article, we will explore the scenario where two individuals are listed as co-agents for power of attorney but find themselves in disagreement regarding a decision for their principal. We will address the following questions:
What Are the Different Types of Power of Attorney?
There are several options available when it comes to power of attorney, each serving distinct legal purposes. Here are six common categories:
Health Care Power of Attorney
Your designated health care power of attorney manages decisions related to your medical treatment, including surgical procedures, nursing home placements, and life support considerations.
Financial Power of Attorney
Your appointed financial power of attorney is responsible for handling financial matters such as bill payments, accessing funds from your accounts for expenses, managing investments, and opening new accounts.
Nondurable Power of Attorney
Nondurable power of attorney ceases to be effective once you become incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney
Durable power of attorney remains valid both before and after your incapacitation. It is commonly used for estate planning purposes and allows your designated agent to make decisions on your behalf without the need for court intervention.
Limited Power of Attorney
Often used alongside nondurable power of attorney, limited power of attorney is employed for specific purposes, such as completing a property transaction, when you are unable or prefer not to be physically present.
General Power of Attorney
This type of power of attorney grants the appointed individual significant decision-making authority in your absence. It is frequently combined with durable power of attorney in estate planning to ensure prompt medical or financial decision-making.
What Is a Competent Principal?
The principal is the person who appoints a power of attorney and for whom decisions are made. A competent principal retains their mental capacity and autonomy to make their own choices. When power of attorney co-agents encounter a financial disagreement, and the principal is mentally competent and physically capable, the principal’s decision takes precedence over the agents. Additionally, the principal has the authority to revoke an agent’s power.
How Is a Disagreement Between Co-Agents Resolved If the Principal Is Incapacitated?
In the event that two co-agents named in a durable power of attorney cannot reach an agreement on a financial or health care matter, they can seek resolution through court intervention, usually in the probate court. The court will endeavor to ascertain the principal’s intentions by reviewing relevant estate planning documents and considering evidence and testimony from the co-agents. The court has the power to modify the power of attorney, revoke an agent’s authority, or appoint a new power of attorney to settle the dispute.
What Are Some Strategies to Avoid Conflict Between Power of Attorney Co-Agents?
To mitigate the risk of conflict between co-agents, one simple approach is to avoid appointing two people as power of attorney. Alternatively, if it becomes necessary to name two individuals, one can be designated as the primary representative, with the other serving as a secondary representative in the event of the primary representative’s incapacitation. If concerns persist regarding the decision-making abilities of the primary representative, a reassessment of choices may be warranted. Other methods to prevent conflicts among agents include:
- Assigning one person as the financial power of attorney and the other as the health care power of attorney.
- Appointing one person to act as both the financial and health care power of attorney.
- Clearly defining specific roles and responsibilities for each agent.
- Designating a neutral third party as the ultimate decision-maker in case of disagreements.
- Opting for mediation as a means of resolving conflicts instead of resorting to litigation.
Appointing a power of attorney can be a significant decision, and ensuring a harmonious co-agent relationship is crucial. By understanding the different types of power of attorney and taking preventive measures, you can navigate potential conflicts and protect the best interests of the principal.
Garrity Traina is a trusted authority in power of attorney matters and offers valuable expertise and solutions for your legal needs.