Choosing an Agent under Power of Attorney- And an Alternate!

Power of Attorney review

Choosing who will serve as your agent under Power of Attorney may seem obvious at first glance. For instance, a married individual may easily choose their spouse to serve as their agent. Choosing one stable, trustworthy agent to manage your affairs if you cannot do so yourself may seem like a no-brainer, but what about the alternate agent? You also have to decide who will step in as an agent if your first choice can no longer serve or is unwilling to serve. Will this be a child? A trusted friend? A neighbor?

The temptation for most is to pick a family member as an alternate. We often see Powers of Attorney with a spouse as the first agent and a child as the alternate. For some families, the child is the alternate for both husband and wife. For other families, specifically families with children from previous marriages and relationships, the husband may choose one of his children, and his wife may choose one of her children.

It is essential to remember that if two different alternates serve as agents for husband and wife, they must work together to care for both husband and wife. Disagreement amongst agents can lead to unwanted results and even litigation resulting from quarrels over a person’s care, joint money management, and how to manage or dispose of joint assets. A litigation scenario we see often is different children serving as agents for each parent. When those children cannot agree, there are unintended results and added attorneys’ costs.

For these reasons, it is helpful to think about who your alternate will be and who will be your first agent’s alternate. In some circumstances, your agent’s alternate under their Power of Attorney may even be able to act on your behalf. For this reason, you must also trust and feel confident in your agent’s alternate. Most importantly, when looking at agents and alternates, always ensure that you feel confident that each agent will be able to work well together to carry out the joint intentions of both you and those close to you.

Making the right choices when getting a Power of Attorney can avoid extensive litigation in the future. Always remember to consider whether any individual who may serve as your agent will be able to fully understand and respond to their fiduciary duties as an agent. It is crucial to elect someone honest, dependable, organized, and who knows your wishes. Contact Jolley Law Group with any questions regarding your Power of Attorney.