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Dealing with inevitable conflict under a dual power of attorney

How agents can work things out, and what to do if they can’t
You can structure a power of attorney a number of different ways, and you can even name more than one agent to act on your behalf. There are several reasons why you might want to do this. Many people feel added comfort in knowing that their agents must come to a mutual agreement before making a decision. But this can be a difficult arrangement for your agents, particularly if they live in different places, or are unwilling to cooperate on certain points.

Multiple agents—how it’s supposed to work

When you appoint two or more agents in a power of attorney, this is known as “concurrent agency,” which generally requires all agents to sign off on all transactions. In a perfect world, your agents see eye-to-eye and work together without conflict. However, this doesn’t always happen. If your agents disagree, their first step should be to consult with you about your wishes. However, it may be that you are currently unable to express them. In this case, your agents should seek the advice of a reputable attorney. If the issue is financially important, they may also want to consider each having their own attorneys.  

Options when facing an insurmountable dispute

Sometimes, a dispute between agents becomes too difficult to resolve, and a judge will need to intervene. A dispute over a power of attorney is heard in a court of equity, rather than a court of law. While this might seem like a significant difference, all it means is that the goal is get a particular action or inaction, instead of money. The first step in untangling the dispute is filing a petition for relief in the court of equity where you live. This could be a local county court, or a court of equitable jurisdiction. If you’re unable to take part, the court will appoint someone to represent your best interests, known as an attorney guardian ad litem. All sides will have an opportunity to present their arguments to the court, including why the conflict should be resolved in their favor. Likewise, the ad litem will have an opportunity to review the evidence and information involved in the case, and will make a suggestion to the court. Keep in mind that court intervention is a costly and expensive route to take in a dispute. If one of your agents doesn’t believe having two powers of attorney will work, it may be wisest for them to decline the position. Alternatively, you may want to consider appointing agents to serve one at a time, as opposed to concurrently, as this greatly reduces the chances of conflict.

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