What Happens If Two People on a Power of Attorney Disagree?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

What Happens If Two People on a Power of Attorney Disagree?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

If two people on a power of attorney disagree, then they will look to you if you are still mentally competent, or could involve the courts to find an appropriate outcome. A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows one or more people to act on your behalf when and if you're unable to do so. In that situation, you're called the principal, and the person acting on your behalf is the agent or attorney-in-fact.

Three people talking around a table in an office

As the principal, you can name more than one agent, but many attorneys will advise you not to unless the agents can get along and work together. Often, you can resolve this before you choose the agents so it's not an issue later on. Keep in mind that conflicts also can occur if you have different agents for a financial or health care POA.

Different Types of Powers of Attorney

First, it's important to understand the different types of powers of attorney. Some types include durable, nondurable, limited, and general. The power given can be for either financial or health care matters.

A durable power of attorney continues even after you've become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions. If it is not durable and you're incapacitated, the agent cannot act for you. It's often wise to give your agent durable authority because someone can act for you when you can't act for yourself.

There are separate financial and health care POAs. Giving someone financial authority enables the agent to control your finances by depositing and cashing checks, making decisions regarding real estate, dealing with tax issues, and any other issue that comes under the umbrella of finances.

A durable health care POA, sometimes called a health care proxy, is one form of advance directive and it allows the agent to make important medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. These decisions could include your type of care, whether you need to move into assisted living or a nursing home, and whether you want to be put on life support if it were deemed necessary.

Limited authority allow an agent to act only under a certain set of circumstances. Examples of this include performing a real estate transaction for you, or deciding how to treat a certain illness. You can limit the powers of your agents as much as you want, so that they act only for a limited time or only deal with a specific situation.

How to Avoid Conflicts Between Agents

There are several ways to avoid conflicts between agents. The best way to prevent disagreements is to draft the document with specific language about how to split duties and how to resolve disputes, which includes:

  • Having one person oversee both the financial and health care aspects
  • Giving one of them financial authority while the other one has health care powers
  • Having one person act as POA, with the second person acting as the successor agent
  • Allowing the agents to act independently of one another so each has different duties
  • Having disputes resolved by a neutral third party instead of a court
  • Allowing for mediation to resolve the issue rather than going to court

In the event there's still disagreement between the two agents, one of them should petition the local probate court to decide how to resolve the conflict. If you're still competent, you can also revoke one or both of the agents' powers of attorney at any time. Do this in writing, with copies to the agents and any court or county office where the agent filed the POA document. Making sure your document contains what you want, and picking the right people, will give you peace of mind that you are legally protected if you become incapacitated.

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.