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Quick Answer: Someone can appoint an alternate (or even more than one alternate) agent in their power of attorney in case their primary agent (or primary co-agents) is unable to serve in that role.

An elderly friend was concerned about her power of attorney.  She and her husband serve as each other’s agent pursuant to their respective power of attorneys.  She acknowledge that they are both elderly and was concerned about what would happen if one of them couldn’t serve as the agent for the other one if it ever became necessary.

Her specific question was this, “Can we name an alternate so that if we can’t serve as agent for each other someone else can?”

The answer to her questions is you can absolutely add an alternate agent to your power of attorney.  Naming an alternate insures, to the best of your ability, that the document will remain in force if the first agent can’t serve.  The power of attorney document would state that if the first agent should die or become unable to serve then the alternate agent can step in and take over.  It isn’t always easy for the alternate agent to take over – they must first prove that the first agent can no longer do it (think a death certificate or a note from a doctor) but once they prove that the first agent is unable to serve they should be able to step in and take over.

Not only can you name an alternate agent but you should.  Having an alternate agent in place increases the likelihood that you will always have someone who can serve as your agent pursuant to your power of attorney.  If you are going to do the work and prepare this important document it really pays to have someone in mind to serve as your agent if the first person you want can’t do it.  In fact, you can name more than one alternate. You can have two or three alternates. That way you can rest easy knowing there will probably always be someone you know and trust to step in and help you manage your affairs if the day ever comes that you can’t.

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