There are many decisions to wrestle with when creating an estate plan. Few families are so harmonious that the parents are able to easily designate assets and authority without a twinge of uncertainty. Perhaps you have more than a twinge as you consider the documents you wish to include in your estate plan.
Among the most difficult choices you will be making is to whom you will assign power of attorney. The person with this authority will have control of your finances, your health care decisions or both. Your decision will likely be based on a number of factors, but even your most careful consideration may not prevent contention and challenges among your children if the time comes for your POA to assume duties.
Choosing one child over the other
Choosing a POA is not as easy as appointing your eldest child. In fact, in many families, the eldest child isn't the most responsible or competent to handle the delicate matters required of a POA. You may have one child who has particular skills with money who makes a logical choice for handling your finances. Another child may have a medical background or be more closely in agreement with your values and wishes regarding medical care. You may choose to divide the duties of your POA between these siblings.
Your decision alone may cause hard feelings among your children, and those not chosen may determine to challenge every act your POA attempts to make on your behalf. This may be especially true if there is already contention among your children. Such rivalry may cause ongoing bickering which may eventually lead to litigation.
Consequences when siblings reject your choice of POA
Your other children who are not supportive of your decision to name a sibling as your POA may pressure your chosen agent enough that he or she will be unable to make decisions on your behalf. If you have gone to the trouble of choosing a POA, you likely have definite wishes for your medical care if you are ever incapacitated. Your POA, intimidated by his or her siblings, may refuse to carry out those wishes. This often results in probate litigation.
This is only one of the ways in which the choice of one child over the other as your power of attorney can jeopardize the goals you have set. Some attempt to resolve this by choosing multiple children to share the duties of a POA, but this often adds further complications. Your POA may find the assistance of a probate litigation attorney helpful if siblings raise challenges to decisions made on your behalf.