People in Grand Forks, North Dakota who create estate plans typically include one or more powers of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document through which you can delegate some, or all, of your legal decision-making abilities.
When you create a power of attorney you select another person or organization who receives the right to make decisions on your behalf. These people are alternately called agents or attorneys-in-fact. While creating powers of attorney and selecting the types of decisions you want your agent to be able to make is important, you will also have to choose how many agents you want to give power to.
Depending on the type of power of attorney you make and the authority you grant your agent, choosing a single person or organization to represent you is sometimes a good choice.
For example, if you create a medical power of attorney that will allow someone else to make healthcare decisions for you should you become incapacitated, your attorney-in-fact will need to be someone who is capable of making potentially difficult medical decisions. In such a situation it isn’t necessary to choose several people, each of whom will have the responsibility of making different types of medical decisions for you.
Two or More Agents
In other situations it could be a better idea to choose two or more people to serve as your attorneys-in-fact. Multiple agents are ideally suited to handle different types of decision-making responsibilities.
For example, creating one power of attorney that gives healthcare decision-making abilities to one agent while making another power of attorney that gives another agent the ability to manage your finances should you become incapacitated is a very popular choice. Assigning different powers to different agents allows you to select agents who are better suited to certain tasks. It also gives you the ability to ensure that one person doesn’t have too much decision-making authority.
Two or More Agents with the Same Abilities
In most situations you will probably want to avoid appointing multiple agents who have the same decision-making authority. For example, if you create medical powers of attorney that name co-agents, those agents will have to be able to coordinate and agree to all decisions. This is often not easy to do, and can cause problems. In general, naming co-agents is not a good idea.
Replacements for Primary Choices
No one is legally obligated to serve as an attorney-in-fact, and your first choice can be unavailable or unwilling to serve once the time comes. Because of this it’s important to name replacement agents for any power of attorney you created. If you fail to name a replacement and your original cannot serve, this can cause significant problems.
We will cover more information about powers of attorney at one of our next free estate planning seminars. We will be in Grand Forks, North Dakota on August 13 and 15, as well as McIntosh, Minnesota on August 14. Contact our office for registration details.