What Happens in Florida when Siblings Dispute a Power of Attorney
Dec. 12, 2019
A power of attorney (POA) in Florida has many responsibilities when the principal of the power of attorney – the one who appointed the agent to manage his or her financial affairs in the event he or she cannot manage those affairs – becomes incapacitated. Parents often choose one trusted, responsible child to act as the power of attorney. When there is more than one child, however, distrust and disputes can arise. Here's an overview of what you can do to prevent a dispute among siblings from arising.
Communicate Your Florida Estate Plan to Your Children
Some people who create an estate plan, including a power of attorney document, want to keep the plan private. They think this will avoid conflicts from arising. It may do so but only so long as the plan does not come to light or is not executed. Once the parents, for example, become incapacitated, if there is a POA document, then the appointed person will be notified. If it is a child who is appointed as the POA and if there are other siblings, they may become resentful or distrustful. So, conflicts are going to arise at one point or another. Communicating the estate plan, however, can go a long way to preventing disputes as opposed to keeping it secret.
When children understand the purpose of the estate plan and your reasons for designating one sibling as the POA over other siblings, then there can be shared understanding and acceptance among siblings. That doesn't mean this will happen in all cases, but in the majority of cases, communication (and the opportunity to share concerns, ideas, etc.) should be sufficient.
Plus, it also provides some level of transparency: the other siblings can check the POA to make sure he or she is conducting financial affairs in accordance with their parents' wishes. But if no one knew who the POA was and, upon the incapacitation of the parent, the POA is informed and begins executing his or her responsibilities, the POA can legally:
open bank accounts;
write checks, among other financial tasks; and
This can become a problem if the POA takes steps to benefit him or herself to the detriment of any siblings.
Consider an Alternative to The Designation of One Child as Power of Attorney in Florida
There are other options you can consider if appointing one child is an issue. You could either:
appoint co-agents, or
designate non-family members.
If you appoint co-agents, maybe two siblings, this can work only if the document is written and executed properly. You will want to create separate obligations for each co-agent so that responsibilities do not intersect. You also want to designate responsibilities in a way that each co-agent acts as a check on the other.
If you choose to designate non-family members, you can find a professional fiduciary (e.g., a bank with trust powers, a trust company, or a certified public accountant). An attorney who handles estates in Orlando, Florida, can make sure you appoint the right fiduciary for yourself. The advantage to a non-family member as the POA is that he or she has no emotional attachment and can execute duties objectively. Further, siblings won't feel one is being favored over the other.
If you are considering appointing a power of attorney, contact experienced estate planning attorneys in Orlando today. The decision is an important one and should not be made lightly.