Challenging a power of attorney

Florida residents who are preparing their estate plans may want to consider who they will appoint as their attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney. This is the person who is able to handle finances in the event the principal is incapacitated.

In some cases, family members may be unhappy with a choice and may seek to challenge it. One New Hampshire woman was concerned that her 66-year-old father’s girlfriend was appointed as attorney-in-fact after he had a stroke. The girlfriend also told her that she had been left everything in his will, under which she had been named as the executor. The man had a small home he had purchased several years ago that the daughter and her brother hoped to keep in the family.

One difficulty in a conflict such as this one is that each party can be suspicious of the motives of the other. In a case like this, it is possible that everyone loves the man and wants to make sure he is cared for. It is also possible that they only care about a possible inheritance. A person who is concerned that a relative might have made a decision while already incapacitated may want to get the person a medical evaluation and speak to an attorney. Establishing incapacity is more difficult after a person’s death.

It may be best to create a power of attorney sooner rather than later. Discussing the choice with family members as well as with an attorney may also help reduce the likelihood of conflict over the choice. If the principal then decides to change it, it is better to discuss this as well.