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Kevin O'Flaherty

If two people listed as power of attorney disagree and cannot resolve their conflict, the matter may be taken to court, particularly probate court, to determine the principal’s wishes and potentially modify or revoke the conflicting powers of attorney. The court can also appoint a new power of attorney to ensure the principal's interests are protected.

Can one Power of Attorney Supersede Another?

It can be difficult to determine if one power of attorney supersedes another and cause legal issues as a result. To make the right decisions here, it’s essential to understand how attorneys and other involved parties work together during this procedure.

When Two People are Power of Attorney

A new POA can supersede an old one if it is stated within the document that it revokes all previous powers of attorney. However, for this to be effective, the new POA must be legally executed, and interested parties should be notified.

Appointing a power of attorney can be a difficult decision. You’re asking someone to take on the responsibility of making a medical or financial decision if you’re not available or you’re incapacitated. Naturally, it may seem like a good idea to spread that authority to more than one person. You decide to name your two daughters as co-agents for power of attorney; they can share the burden. But what happens if they can’t resolve a disagreement? It may be necessary to involve the court, and suddenly, you’re in the exact situation you were trying to avoid.

The ability of one POA to supersede another typically depends on the principal's intentions as expressed in the POA documents and in accordance with state laws. Therefore, clear communication and legal guidance are key in setting up multiple Powers of Attorney.

When a New Legal Document Nullifies the Old One

When a new legal document nullifies an old one, allowing for the second to take priority over it, this is referred to as power of attorney supersession. This process can be complex and often requires considerations such as evaluating the principal’s mental state, what kind of power has been established in place, and whether all appropriate laws are being followed or not.

Legal Requirements for Supersession

For a power of attorney to be properly superseded, the legal documents must meet specific requirements. They need to be recorded in writing and attested by notarization with all individuals present at signing, some states requiring one or more witnesses as well. By attaching an official authentication through notarizing the document, it is given legitimacy under law that can then authorize the agent to act on behalf of their principal independently. Signatures are proof that those involved gave consent for these powers being transferred/revoked legally from within this attorney document too.

When Can a POA Supersede Another?

The mental capacity of the principal is a major element in deciding whether or not existing power of attorney and other estate planning documents can be superseded. A new POA may take precedence over an old one if the giver displays clear awareness when revoking it, or if there was initially a non-durable form set up that is no longer applicable due to incapacity. There must then be clarity on what kind of power has been granted – durable vs non-durable, with regards to handling financial matters by either agent or attorney involved. Durable authority endures even after loss of competence from the grantor, whereas non-enduring powers are terminated at such times. Understanding this difference determines possibilities for any replacement process accordingly.

What Is A Competent Principal?

The principal is the individual who appoints a power of attorney. Another way to think of the principal is as the person a power of attorney is making the decisions for. A competent principal is still coherent and mentally able to make his or her own decisions. If power of attorney co-agents disagree on a financial decision and the principal is mentally competent and not physically incapacitated, then the principal’s decision supersedes the representatives. The principal also has the authority to revoke an agent’s authority. 

What Are The Different Types Of Power Of Attorney?

There is a handful of different power of attorney options available to fit your legal needs, but for the most part, power of attorney falls into one of six categories:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney - Your appointed health care power of attorney handles actions and decisions related to your health care, such as whether or not you have surgery, get moved to a nursing home, are placed on life support, etc.
  • Financial Power of Attorney - Your appointed financial power of attorney, handles decisions and actions such as paying bills, taking money out of your checking account to cover certain expenses, opening a checking account, managing investment accounts, etc.
  • Nondurable Power of Attorney - Nondurable power of attorney terminates when you become incapacitated.
  • Durable Power of Attorney - Durable power of attorney remains in place before and after you become incapacitated. Durable PoA is the most common type of power of attorney for estate planning purposes. It allows the person you name as PoA to make decisions without court intervention immediately, should you become incapacitated.
  • Limited Power of Attorney - This is typically combined with nondurable power of attorney and used in business transactions, such as closing on a property, or for any other instance when you can’t be present or don’t want to be present for a legal matter.
  • General Power of Attorney - This type of PoA gives the appointed individual near complete authority to make all decisions in your stead. It is most often employed with durable power of attorney in estate planning so that a medical or financial decision is made quickly.

Joint Power of Attorney Problems

Navigating multiple powers of attorney can be difficult, especially when it comes to allocating roles and responsibilities among the attorneys. Here we will discuss tactics for tackling this issue in a way that looks out for what is best for the principal while at the same time averting any potential conflicts from arising.

Coordinating Responsibilities

Having more than one agent with multiple powers of attorney requires careful coordination. Establishing specific roles and tasks for each can help principals keep a clear line between them to avoid clashes. Some ways to ensure successful collaboration include assigning job duties, having regular check-ins, and developing trust among the co-agents. This way, joint power will be managed efficiently in order for the principal’s wishes to come true while minimizing conflicts within agents.

Communication Among Agents

It is essential for joint agents to have good communication in order to manage multiple powers of attorney and ensure the principal’s wishes are carried out. In this way, all involved parties can stay on top of their responsibilities while ensuring that decisions benefit the principal. Establishing a clear set up such as regular meetings or exchanges of written guidelines enables efficient collaboration among agents by prioritizing open communication with one another. This ensures an effective management system and protection over what the principals want accomplished through their power(s) of attorney.

Resolving Disputes and Conflicts Between Powers of Attorney

Managing multiple agents can be a complex task, especially when it comes to conflicts between powers of attorney. In such situations, principals and their representatives may need to explore alternative methods for resolution like arbitration, mediation or court proceedings.

How Is A Disagreement Between Co-Agents Resolved If The Principal Is Incapacitated?

If two people are named as co-agents on a durable power of attorney and they are faced with a financial or health care decision that they can’t agree on, then the co-agents can petition the court to decide. In most case, this will be the probate court. The court will attempt to discern the principal’s wishes through any estate planning documents available and will consider evidence and testimony from the co-agents. The court can also modify the power of attorney, revoke and agent’s power of attorney or appoint a new power of attorney to resolve the conflict. 

Mediation and Arbitration

An alternative method for resolving disagreements between powers of attorney without seeking court involvement is through mediation and arbitration. Mediation involves a neutral third-party facilitating conversations in order to achieve an amicable settlement accepted by both parties, while arbitration consists of the adjudicator listening to each party’s case before making a binding ruling. Both solutions are viable methods when trying to find agreement between attorneys and result in faster resolution with less tension than if litigation had taken place.

Court Intervention

In cases where mediation or arbitration is not successful, court intervention may be required. The judiciary can change the existing power of attorney document and appoint a new agent to work through the disagreement. This could involve revoking any pre-existing powers an attorney had over it as well as establishing a brand new set of rights for them. Whilst legal action takes more time than other dispute resolution methods, there are certain circumstances that call for such measures - after all, having authority with regards to one’s power of attorney cannot be lightly ignored.

Can A Joint Power of Attorney Act Alone?

Whether a joint Power of Attorney (POA) can act alone depends on the specific language and powers granted in the POA document. There are generally two ways joint attorneys can be set up to operate:

  1. Jointly: This means that the appointed attorneys must make decisions together and cannot act independently of each other. Every action requires the consent and participation of all appointed attorneys.
  2. Jointly and Severally: In this arrangement, attorneys can make decisions together or independently. This provides more flexibility as any one of the appointed attorneys can act on their own without the other.

The exact terms of the POA are crucial. If the document specifies that the attorneys are to act jointly, then no single attorney can act without the other(s). If it allows for joint and several actions, then they can act alone. These terms must be clearly stated in the POA document to be effective and to avoid any ambiguity in the authority of each attorney.

What Are Some Ways To Avoid Conflict Between Power Of Attorney Co-Agents?

The simplest option is to not give two people power of attorney. Or, if you must appoint two people, name one as the primary representative and the other as the secondary representative in case the primary becomes incapacitated. If you’re still concerned about the decisions of the primary representative, then you probably need to take another look at your choices. Some other options to avoid conflicts between agents include:

  • Having one person act as financial PoA and the other as health care PoA;
  • Having one person act as both financial PoA and health care PoA;
  • Assigning specific duties to each agent;
  • Assigning a third party to be the deciding factor should the co-agents disagree; or
  • Resolve the issue through mediation instead of the courtroom.

Frequently Asked Questions

What three decisions Cannot be made by a legal power of attorney?

A legal power of attorney does not enable an agent to take over responsibilities from the Principal, make choices after their death, or assign inheritances and assets once they have passed away.

Why would someone want more than one person with the power of attorney?

By having several power of attorney documents, it allows you to assign attorneys with specific areas of knowledge such as finances and healthcare in order to protect your interests. By doing so, those entrusted will be able to better serve the purpose.

What is a joint power of attorney in the United States?

A joint power of attorney in the United States is a legal document which grants two or more persons the power to act jointly on behalf of an individual, requiring them to agree on all decisions.

This may be further specified by a “joint and several” POA allowing each person appointed to act alone.

Who is the best person to be power of attorney?

The most suitable person to have a power of attorney should be someone you wholly trust and who is financially reliable, orderly, as well as knowledgeable in online transactions. They will require a precise eye for detail along with an acknowledgement of their responsibilities concerning money matters. Coupled with being committed to fulfilling those duties sincerely.

A partner or family member near-by, or even your legal expert may make the best selection regarding this matter.

Can one power of attorney supersede another?

Under the right conditions, a power of attorney may be superseded by another. This could happen if an individual is competent enough to revoke their previous POA or it’s non-durable and they become disabled.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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