Joint Power of Attorney

A power of attorney document is a way of granting powers to another individual. Depending on the state you live in, this individual is called an agent or an attorney-in-fact. It is possible to create a joint power of attorney where you would have two agents, sharing the given authority.

You may have been advised to appoint an alternative agent for the powers of attorney in your estate plan. This is a good practice because if your agent cannot be contacted your power of attorney would become void. This is different, however, than a joint power of attorney. In a joint POA document you are asking two people to act together, at the same time.

When one document is used to appoint two agents it is presumed the powers were meant to be shared. Your agents would need to agree on all decisions and co-sign all legal documents on your behalf. This method is particularly effective if you have any concerns about one agent maybe taking advantage of their power and taking action to benefit himself or herself. Requiring both agents to sign greatly lessens that possibility.

However, a Joint Power of Attorney could also be written in such a way as to allow allow the two agents to act independently of each other. The word "severally" needs to be written in the power of attorney form, appropriately placed, to enable your agents to work separately of each other. When this occurs your agents are acting "jointly and severally".

For instance, if you have two sons and want them both involved, but you do not want them fighting or arguing. One of your sons has been active in your business and is best suited for making the decisions necessary to keep it running, and the other is a financial advisor and is perfect for managing all of your investment accounts. They could both be your agents in a joint power of attorney and allowed to work alone, in the area they are best suited.

Or maybe you have two daughters with skills and educations that compliment each other. They also just happen to get along with each other and seldom have disagreements. It would be very suitable to list them in a joint power of attorney and allow them to work together to manage your finances, or health care needs.

Everyone will have a different situation and different people in their lives they love and trust. You may want to have a meeting with these individuals and make sure they agree with your ideas and are willing to do their part, even if it means sharing some of the responsibility. The final decisions will be yours, and yours alone. This is your joint power of attorney and the agents are the ones you choose, and believe, will do the best job possible.

Legal documents of all types, including power of attorney forms, are available at Legal Zoom. While it is possible to create your joint power of attorney document without the use of an attorney, do so only if your are comfortable knowing it is done correctly.

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