Can a Sibling with Power of Attorney Prevent Other Siblings from Seeing a Parent?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Can a Sibling with Power of Attorney Prevent Other Siblings from Seeing a Parent?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Unfortunately, power of attorney sometimes causes friction between siblings. Generally speaking, power of attorney does not authorize the attorney-in-fact to limit siblings' access to their incapacitated parent.

Woman holding her mother's hand in a hospital.

Power of attorney allows a trusted family member, friend, or professional (called an attorney-in-fact or agent) to handle financial matters for the person granting the power. When people create powers of attorney for estate planning purposes, they often do so with the intention of making things easier on their children or other loved ones. If incapacity strikes, the person with power of attorney can handle their incapacitated loved one's finances without going to court to do so.

Understanding Power of Attorney

Granting broad, durable power of attorney to a child or other responsible adult means that if you aren't able to handle your own financial affairs, someone else can. Unless you choose to limit the authority in some way, your attorney-in-fact can write checks from your bank account, get information about your assets, make transactions in investment accounts, handle insurance matters, and more.

When used in an estate planning context, power of attorney can eliminate the need to go to court to establish conservatorship or guardianship over someone's affairs. People also use powers of attorney for purposes other than estate planning, such as giving someone else authority to sign for them at a real estate closing. In such situations, the potential for the attorney-in-fact to abuse his or her power by refusing to allow siblings to see their parent is much less likely.

The Scope of Durable vs. Nondurable Powers of Attorney

The most common type of power of attorney is a durable power of attorney. This means the named agent has authority to act even during periods of the creator's lifetime incapacity. In contrast, a nondurable power of attorney is only valid while the person who created the form has mental capacity. If they become incapacitated, the named agent's authority ends.

Regardless of whether a power of attorney is durable or nondurable, you can choose what types of transactions you want your agent to handle. In an estate planning context, power of attorney is often used to give the attorney-in-fact broad authority to handle any type of financial or business transaction. Depending on your state's laws, you may also need to decide whether to allow your agent(s) to make gifts to themselves from your assets during your lifetime.

Considerations When Naming an Attorney-in-Fact

When you create a power of attorney, you need to name one or more attorneys-in-fact. Your attorney(s)-in-fact have whatever powers you authorize and can be any competent adult(s). However, because the document is potentially dangerous in the wrong hands, it is important to name a family member, friend, or professional that you trust. In short, you should believe your named agent will act in your best interest and honor your wishes at all times.

Naming an adult child as your attorney-in-fact may be the most logical choice. However, consider whether doing so could create or exacerbate rivalry between that child and their siblings. In most cases, an adult child who has power of attorney cannot use power of attorney to limit others' access to their parent. If there is a reason to limit access, the child serving as power of attorney could obtain a court order on the parent's behalf.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.