Naming Co-Agents on Powers of Attorney: Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should
I am often asked by clients if they can name both of their children as joint or co-agents on their medical or statutory durable power of attorney. While you can name joint agents under the law, it doesn’t mean you should.
Your medical and statutory durable powers of attorney appoint a person (also called an agent) to act on your behalf should you need them to. These documents are crucial to avoid court intervention in your business and make sure the right people are empowered to make the right decisions. (To learn more about powers of attorney, check out this blog.) You may be able to see the issue with co-agents immediately – if you have two or more people appointed to make decisions for you, what happens if they cannot agree? The very purpose of your powers of attorney could be undermined. Conflict and indecision between agents can leave your critical decisions at a standstill and could possibly create litigation. No one wants their children or other loved ones arguing over who can make a decision.
Even if your agents are in agreement, the need for both agents to be available can be cumbersome. While some powers of attorney allow for one agent to act independent of the other, many do not. Further, many institutions will require both agents no matter what the document states. Acting as an agent is a difficult enough task as it is, adding in the need to coordinate with another person can make it a nightmare.
There are still ways we can work to keep everyone involved during a decision-making process. Remember, your power of attorney is your “voice”, but you can have many “eyes and ears”. If you want to ensure several individuals have the right to be informed of all decisions being made and to receive relevant information from medical professionals and others this can still be achieved with proper drafting in your documents. If you are thinking about naming co-agents, it is important to discuss why you want to name co-agents with your attorney so you can discuss solutions that meet your specific goals.