Resolving Conflicts between Co-agents on a Power of Attorney

When someone asks you to serve as their agent, giving you power of attorney, you may feel quite honored or flattered at first. But after the weight of that responsibility sinks in, you may (and should) have some serious questions. Having power of attorney over another can be an awesome responsibility and may be too great a burden for just one person. For this reason, an individual may choose to select more than one agent to act in their place should they become incapacitated. But two heads are not always better than one.

What do you do if you are one of these agents and, for whatever reason, you and your co-agent(s) just cannot agree? Worse yet, what if you suspect one of your co-agents is not acting in the best interest of your loved one? Conflicts can arise in your attempts to act as “attorney-in-fact.” Here are some problems with a list of potential solutions:

  • First check the wording of the power of attorney document to see if it sets up a procedure for resolving disputes.
  • If the power of attorney does not help, contact an elder law attorney, who can tell if your state’s power of attorney laws offer any guidance. There may be a state statute that deals with disputes.
  • Your final step may be to file a petition in court to let the court decide.  The court can arbitrate or, if necessary, find one agent to not be acting in the best interest of the individual in question and so strip them of their power of attorney.

If you are creating a power of attorney and want more than one agent to share responsibility, you can minimize potential conflicts by allowing the agents to act separately. An alternative to naming co-agents is to name your agents in sequence. The first-named agent acts alone, but if they cannot serve for some reason, power goes to the next person on the list.

As you can see, situations can become quite complex. You can learn more about powers of attorney on our website. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter.

 

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