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What is an agent?

In a power of attorney, you give authorization to a certain person (or people) to make decisions on your behalf. This person is known as an agent. And, in an estate planning context, this agent will often make these decisions when you yourself are incapable of doing so, such as if you've been incapacitated or entered a coma.

What can an agent do?

That's largely up to. You can give your agent broad responsibilities with a general power of attorney or more specific ones with a special power of attorney.

For example, you may only want your agent making medical decisions for you. Or, alternatively, you may want a different agent to handle your finances.

What if your agent refuses or has passed away?

When you start your power of attorney, it's a smart idea to appoint a second agent. That way, if your agent cannot or will not perform the responsibilities you've granted him or her, you'll have selected another able candidate. Also, if your agent does in fact pass away (of if they inform you that they're uncomfortable acting on your behalf), it's best to create a new power of attorney document and appoint a set of new primary and secondary agents.

What questions should you consider when choosing an agent?

Since this person will have legal authority to act on your behalf, it's very important that this person is trustworthy and will act in your best interests. Here are some questions to ask yourself about any person you are considering as your agent:

  • Do you trust this person with your important financial and other legal affairs?
  • Is this person financially responsible?  How do they manage their own financial and legal affairs?
  • Will the potential agent charge you a fee?  Family members usually perform the service gratis, but if you pick a lawyer or accountant, a fee is usually involved.
  • Will this person agree to serve as your Power of Attorney agent?  You should discuss your decision with them and they should agree before you officially appoint them.

Remember, if you ever become unsure of your agent's trustworthiness or if a conflict of interest arises, you should terminate the agent's authority to act for you by using a revocation of power of attorneydocument and create a new one.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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