How to Choose Your Power of Attorney When You’re Remarried

Should you appoint your new spouse or a child from your previous marriage? It all comes down to who will make the best decisions that are right for you.

Paperwork that says power of attorney across the top.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting divorced and remarried is a pretty common occurrence. Consider:

Remarrying can bring about a lot of change for everyone involved, especially when planning and updating your estate. And designating a power of attorney is a key element of your estate plan.

A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document that gives another person, also known as an agent, the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. When it comes to your finances, this person can access your financial accounts to pay bills, file taxes on your behalf, make investment decisions and apply for public benefits such as Medicaid.

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Choose someone you trust

Given all this power, it’s imperative that you choose someone you trust. For most people, that person is a spouse or a family member. Legally, the agent must be over the age of 18. However, this decision can become increasingly difficult when family dynamics change. If you’re stuck trying to decide if you should designate your new spouse or your children from a previous marriage, there are a number of factors you’ll want to keep in mind.

First and foremost, your agent must be financially responsible and have the ability to manage your finances. You should feel confident that this person will act in your best interest. If you know your new spouse is an overspender, they may not be the best choice. Similarly, if your child frequently misses payments or has poor credit, you may want to reconsider.

Next, you’ll want to figure out what decisions your power of attorney can make. Do you plan on giving them access to manage your bank accounts or pay bills? Do you trust them to make investment decisions if necessary? It’s important to note that your agent can also make decisions beyond your finances if you give them permission to. These include medical decisions, such as treatment or end-of-life care, as well as decisions about where you’ll live when you get older. Figuring out what powers are most important to you can help you make your choice.

Can they effectively handle conflict?

Another important factor to consider is your agent’s ability to handle conflict and communicate effectively. You want to be confident that this person can navigate complex family dynamics and resolve any conflicts as needed. This person should also have good communication skills. They need to be able to communicate the decisions they are making on your behalf to the rest of your family. So, if your new spouse and children don’t have a good relationship with each other and other members of your family, you’ll want to choose someone who does.

Finally, you’ll want to consider where your potential agent is located. This may seem like a no-brainer if you’re considering choosing your new spouse. But if your children live in a different state, the distance could make things difficult — especially when it comes to decisions that need to be made in a timely manner. If you’re experiencing a medical or financial crisis, you can’t afford to wait for your agent to travel to you. Picking someone close ensures your agent is fully present, increasing their ability to make decisions that are in your best interest.

Power of attorney is a big responsibility

Choosing a power of attorney is not an easy process. Whoever you choose will have an immense responsibility over your life should you become unable to manage decisions on your own. Be sure to take your time with this decision and talk to your family. It’s important that the person you’re considering as an agent is comfortable and able to fulfill the responsibilities you’ve given them under your estate plan.

This decision is one that only you can make, so you want to be confident in your choice. Although it can be a difficult conversation, be sure your loved ones are included in this process so that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of your wishes.

It’s also worth consulting with a financial adviser or estate lawyer. They can help address any concerns or questions you may have while making sure your estate plan is up to date.

Kelsey Simasko is an investment advisory representative of and provides advisory services through CoreCap Advisors, LLC. Simasko Law is a separate entity and not affiliated with CoreCap Advisors. The information provided here is not tax, investment or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Kelsey M. Simasko, Esq.
Elder Law Attorney, Simasko Law

Kelsey Simasko is an associate attorney at the Simasko Law firm, where she specializes in Elder Law and Wealth Preservation. She follows in the footsteps of her late grandfather, Leonard J. Simasko, who started the firm in 1955, as well as her uncle, James M. Simasko, and father, Patrick M. Simasko — partners of the Simasko Law firm.