Deciding who gets power of attorney (POA) for your estate is a big decision. A power of attorney is a legal document that designates an agent (also known as an “attorney-in-fact”), most often a loved one, to act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or legal matters. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal. POAs expire at death, or sooner in some cases, and can always be revoked upon the request of the principal.
Let’s say a father (the principal) has two adult daughters and one adult son. The father assigns the son as power of attorney. That means the son can handle matters like accessing his dad’s financial accounts to pay his dad’s bills, file taxes on behalf of his dad, and manage his dad’s property. The POA is a fiduciary obligation that means that the son must act in the best interests of his dad.
Advice for keeping peace in this family:
- The father must understand the details of the power he’s giving his son.
- The son must comprehend the range of responsibilities he’s been given.
- The daughters (and any other close loved ones) must be told that the son has POA. Ideally this would be done by the father. These loved ones must understand exactly what responsibilities the son now has. They should be encouraged to respect the arrangement.
Open communication is the key to trying to avoid any disputes. If the son shares financial information on a regular basis with his sisters, the sisters will be more trusting of his power of attorney efforts. Keeping the sisters in the loop gives them the opportunity to ask questions or mention if they see an issue. This transparency is the best way to avoid any kind of family issues.