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My two children are both capable of handling my medical and financial needs, but I can’t decide who will be my power of attorney. Can’t I just name them both?

Certainly, but it depends. For medical decisions, it is recommended to name one at a time so as to streamline the family’s communication with health care professionals should the need arise. But when it comes to the power of attorney for financial decisions, on the one hand, multiple children who do not typically agree on most issues serving simultaneously could result in conflict or chaos. It is better to select one child at a time in that case. But alternatively, adult children who are generally on the same page would provide invaluable support to each other and their parents, especially if an emergency arises when one of them is not readily available.

What to Consider When Deciding To Appoint Your Agent

Think about which child is better suited to the responsibilities. For health-care decision-making, your agent should ideally be calm in stressful situations and be able to advocate courteously but firmly with doctors and nurses for the treatment you want. For financial management, your agent should be organized, careful, and good with numbers.

Your health-care agent should live nearby, but if the child who lives locally is terrified of things like needles and blood, the other, sturdier child might be a better choice. On the other hand, who can manage finances from afar, but if that child didn’t cope with a checkbook, the other would be better. So, if one child is good in one area and the other child is good in the other, the dilemma is solved. You can name the number-proficient daughter for the financial side and your more caretaking-inclined son for the health care. Or, if just one child is altogether more capable than the other, name that one child for both healthcare and financial powers, with the other as a successor agent in case the first child becomes unavailable.

There is no correct answer. You must consider carefully. You do not want to create a situation where children who share the job start arguing about what health care you would want. Busy physicians have little time or patience to mediate fights like that. Likewise, you do not want your children quarreling about how you would want your money to be spent. But it is very beneficial naming both if the possibility of in-family bickering is not a concern.

For assistance, please contact our office at (212) 920-6371.

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