Do I Need to Name an Alternate Agent, Trustee and/or Executor?

Do I Need to Name an Alternate Agent, Trustee and/or Executor? article image

A basic estate plan usually includes a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advanced Healthcare Directive. Often at the initial consultation, we review a client’s previous estate plan and many times find that they have named only one person as agent and/or executor. This could potentially cause challenges - what if that person becomes incapacitated or passes away before you? What if your agent goes on a long trip and during that time you have a significant health emergency and need that person to act on your behalf? Also, we often find that two people are listed together, but without independent authority to act. Technically in order for decisions to be made or actions to take place, both need to be present. What if one lives locally, but the other is 500 miles away? Your emergency cannot be handled until they are both present.

When making decisions about who you wish to act on your behalf when you are unable to act for yourself, we strongly suggest you list a primary agent and an alternate agent. For example, you may list your spouse, then maybe your child. Another option is to list two agents to act concurrently (at the same time) with the ability to act independent of each other. In the latter choice, two children can act together, but each could act without the other if necessary.

It is best to make this responsibility as simple as possible for those who you’ve selected to act on your behalf. So the take away is to list a primary and secondary agent or list the role as concurrent with independent authority to act in all basic estate planning documents.