Q: I have three children. I would like all of them to divide my estate, but I only want two of them listed in the power of attorney. Can I let one my kids make financial decisions and one of them make medical decisions? What happens if one of them won't serve?
A: Choosing a person to help out during your lifetime under a power-of-attorney requires a lot of thought. Just like everyone isn't cut out to serve as a personal representative, not everyone is cut out to be an attorney-in-fact
Sometimes the decision is a fairly easy one. For example, if two of the children live in Arizona and one lives down the street, the local child is usually preferable simply because he or she is local. It would be a bit hard for a daughter living in Phoenix to help out mom at her local bank.
Sometimes it isn't about who should serve but rather who shouldn't. If you have a child who simply can't be counted on or trusted, they probably aren't the best choice. It doesn't mean you don't love them. It's just that you know they aren't the right person for the job.
Whatever criteria you use, once you have made a decision who you want to appoint, you need to decide what powers you want that person to have. You can give the person broad powers under a durable general power-of-attorney or you can grant them limited authority under the terms of a limited power-of-attorney.
In your particular situation, you asked if you could appoint one child to help with financial issues and one to handle medical decisions. The answer is yes. In fact, that sort of arrangement isn't that uncommon.
Often times a client wants to appoint one child attorney-in-fact because that child lives close but wants all of the children involved in medical decisions. In that case, the client would execute a power-of-attorney naming Johnny attorney-in-fact and a health care representative granting all of the children the authority to make medical decisions.
Finally, remember just because you name someone, doesn't mean they have to serve. It's always a good idea to have a conversation with your prospects prior to executing the docs. Also, make sure you have a couple of substitutes just in case.
Whoever you decide to appoint, it's important to give it a lot of thought. I know that powers-of-attorney are common these days, but they really are sophisticated documents and they should only be used after careful consideration and thought.