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How many agents do you need for your powers of attorney?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2023 | Estate Planning |

The longstanding adage goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the context of estate planning, bestowing power on someone who will decide on your behalf in the event of incapacitation or death entails a pivotal commitment to delivering formalized duties.

By creating a power of attorney as the principal, you authorize a competent adult known as an agent, or an attorney-in-fact, to act on your behalf for crucial matters, like finances and health care. You may opt for willing family members or appoint experts, like lawyers or accountants, for this role. Further, assigning a person who lives near you may be optimal for logistical convenience. Essentially, it must be someone you confidently trust to act in your best interests when you can no longer communicate your wishes.

With so much at stake, is having more than one agent advisable?

Shared power

Although you can have more than one agent, the decision must come out of necessity and not to appease any family member or avoid family feuds. It will help to deliberately weigh the following options first before making any conclusive decision:

  • Dual or co-agents: These are two people of equal footing possessing their own copy of the signed power-of-attorney agreement. They can devise a time-saving organizational system to accomplish several tasks. But even if you may assign them overlapping instead of carefully separated tasks, you must consider if that will be a productive choice or only a window for disruptive disagreements causing delays.
  • Successive or alternate agents: When the original agent cannot perform their tasks due to severe illness, disability, death or other unforeseen circumstances, a replacement agent may take over.
  • Multiple agents: While you may assign multiple agents, some for your finances and the rest for your health care, doing so poses fraud risks. Financial institutions are usually suspicious of estate fraud, so this may be more trouble than its worth.

Ultimately, choosing more than one agent to handle estate planning decisions has corresponding benefits and drawbacks. Depending on your situation, you must tread cautiously who you want to establish and build a fiduciary relationship with. After all, if left unsupervised, power tends to be blinding. It will help to seek legal guidance on protecting it from landing in the wrong hands.

Agents of your legacy

Should you choose more than one agent and disputes ensue, the agents may have to settle in court, which can potentially revoke an agent’s authority. Wielding shared power on your own is risky. It will be wise to ask for guidance from a legal representative to avoid costly and time-consuming missteps.