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Can a power of attorney have more than one agent?

Nolo

Question:

Can you have a shared power of attorney? My aunt named her son as agent and he misused funds. Then she appointed her nephew, and he let her credit rating slip because he did not pay bills in a timely fashion. Now she would like both her niece and nephew to have authority to handle financial matters for her; she thinks this will serve to keep both of them on their toes.

Answer:

When you make or change a durable power of attorney for finances, you are allowed to name more than one agent (or "attorney-in-fact," as this person is known in some states). If your aunt wants to name both her niece and nephew, she may do so, but she will have to decide how they should carry out their duties.

She can give them each independent authority, which means that either can take care of any financial task authorized by the power of attorney document without consulting the other. Or she can require them to reach agreement before taking any action under the document.

If her niece or nephew slips up and there's no one more trustworthy who can take the job, requiring them to act together in everything they do may well keep them on their toes. Giving them independent authority may simply create more chaos.

Of course, there are drawbacks to a shared power of attorney to consider, too. If there are conflicts between the agents, it could cause delays and disrupt the handling of your aunt's finances. This is always worth careful consideration when thinking about naming multiple agents.

In summary, more than one person can be an agent or attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, but you'll want to think carefully before naming more than one agent. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Pros to Naming More Than One Agent

  • If the agents are given authority to act independently, more than one person is available to handle financial tasks, which can be convenient (for example, if one agent is out of town)
  • If each agent has a different strength (for example, one sibling has investment experience while the other sibling has more free time), naming more than one agent can allow you to utilize these different strengths.

Cons to Naming More Than One Agent

  • If the agents are given authority to act independently, one agent might not be aware of what the other agent is doing, which can create confusion.
  • If the agents need to reach agreement to act, the hassles, burdens, and time associated with being an agent can increase.
  • The potential for conflict is much greater when you have two or more agents. This can lead to long delays or even expensive court battles.
  • Banks and other third parties may be more reluctant to work with multiple agents, due to worries about fraud.

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