Thousand Oaks Senior Home Care Blog

Avoiding Family Feuds over Power of Attorney

By George & Patricia Jones

Avoiding Family Feuds over Power of Attorney

Deciding who will have Power of Attorney can affect family dynamics for years to come. That person will oversee major decisions, both medical and financial. Even if your parents plan ahead while they are fit and healthy, it can still cause problems in the family dynamic if not handled carefully.

In some families, it may be obvious who the Power of Attorney role should go to. It may be the oldest child, or it may be the child who lives closest, has a business mind, and understands the intimate details of the lives of the parents. Financial skills are obviously a must when it comes to who will handle the money.

This decision has the potential to cause resistance from other children who may feel insulted. Some states make it possible to have more than one person as Power of Attorney, but you will need to make sure about your state. This too can cause issues down the line if not everyone agrees on how a certain situation should be handled. There are also states where an individual can be named POA in certain areas. For example, one person may handle health care decisions, and another may handle financial decisions. It’s logical to assign these separate roles to the children who have the most experience in them. There may be a doctor or nurse in the family who would oversee health care or a son or daughter in business or finance who understands that area better.

The Aftermath of the Power of Attorney Decision

Often, the process of assigning legal documents to the person with POA will go very smoothly. But this doesn’t mean all will stay well. When a parent passes away, this is when you are likely to see backlash and problems from other family members. One sibling may even try to usurp the person with POA while the parent is still living. They may disagree with something and then claim that the parent made that decision when they were not in their right mind. This can result in going to court to fight for guardianship and this is a very expensive process.

Elderly Care Attorneys and Common Issues

Sibling rivalry
Sibling rivalry can get ugly really fast. A jealous sibling may begin hounding the POW sibling about their decisions and cause many drawn-out arguments. When siblings don’t trust each other, this needs to be resolved beforehand if at all possible. If the parent is still alive and lucid, the duties of the Power of Attorney should be clearly laid out by the parents. If this is done ahead of time, it can literally save a family.

Not Letting Go
The person who holds Power of Attorney MUST have the best interest of everyone at heart. They must act on behalf of the person or parent they are representing and do what is right. If other siblings feel it isn’t right, that POA holder can be sued later on. A good example of this is when the living will states that there is to be no long-term life support. The POA may honor that but other siblings refuse to let go of the dying parent and it causes a huge battle. No one wants to let go of their loved one, but the POA has the responsibility to carry out the wishes that are stated in the living will.

Financial Feuds
Inheritance can cause many arguments in families, which can divide them for many years to come. These issues can eventually land in court, whether or not the parent is alive. One common situation is the child who is the POA may pay themselves back for all the care they have provided along the way, such as doctor visits, medication management, food, etc. In this case, the one child may feel that they deserve more than the agreed upon 50/50 with another child. It is crucial that siblings communicate well and try to get on the same page. When one sibling feels they are owed more for all they have done, it can cause jealousy and resentment in the other siblings.

Do all that can be done to create trust among the siblings and go to all lengths to avoid going to court to fight these battles. If the parent is still living, do all that you can to get clarity on these issues so that there can’t be any misunderstandings later!

For more information on Power of Attorney among the elderly, please contact us today!

Home Helpers of Thousand Oaks is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Oxnard, Moorpark, Malibu, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Lake Sherwood, Newbury Park, Oak Park, North Ranch, Pacific Palisades, Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Woodland Hills, Topanga, and Somis, California.