A lot of estate plans include different types of powers of attorney. While these documents are very useful, there are some practical limitations you should know about before you make a decision about the agent you choose through your power of attorney.
It’s ok to choose more than one agent when you create multiple powers of attorney as long as you realize that each agent should have a particular responsibility. For example, if you create healthcare and financial powers of attorney, naming a different agent under each is fine. In fact, it’s probably a good idea in some situations because different people may be better at, for example, making financial decisions than others.
It’s also a very good idea to name alternate or replacement agents in each power of attorney you create. A replacement agent will take over the original agent’s responsibilities if the original agent is no longer able or willing to serve. In fact, choosing two or more replacement agents is something you’ll probably want to do for each power of attorney you create.
Co-agents under a power of attorney have equal responsibilities. While this might seem like a good idea, it is usually not. The practical necessity of having each agent coordinate and come to an agreement on each decision they make means that appointing co-agents could backfire on you. One way to lessen problems with co-agents is to allow each of them to act independently. However, this decision should not be made lightly.
Created properly and with care, powers of attorneys can be useful and cost-effective planning tools. Unfortunately, boilerplate forms that are readily available on the internet and elsewhere are too often ineffective. When creating powers of attorney it is best to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
Dividing responsibility between multiple agents and using backups is often better than choosing co-agents.
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