The Importance of Naming Alternate Agents in Your Estate Planning Documents

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Establishing a Durable Power of Attorney enables you to elect a trusted individual as your agent to make critical financial decisions on your behalf once you are unable to handle your own affairs. Depending on the specifications in your document, these responsibilities may include engagement in banking and real estate transactions, pursuing tax matters or even operating a business or entity. For decisions regarding medical care, your Health Care Proxy, HIPAA release and Advanced Health Care Directive are designed to allow you to provide specific health care preferences in writing while electing health care agents to carry out your wishes. While you may have already selected reliable individuals to fill these roles, not electing contingent agents could render these documents obsolete if anything were to happen to your primary candidate.

Failing to name an alternate in any one of these documents could have dire consequences particularly if your initial agent is someone close to your age or older. Many people choose their spouse or partner to step into the role of agent. Due to age or health concerns, this sole selection may carry the risk of your agent predeceasing you or becoming incapacitated before or while serving as your agent. However unforeseen circumstances can put anyone out of commission without warning.  In which case, no one would be available to represent your interests until a conservator or guardian is elected by a court. This process can be drawn out, costly and frustrating.

Choosing alternative options when it comes to selecting Trustees and Personal Representatives (formerly called “Executors”) is equally important. You will need to select competent, savvy, and willing individuals to properly administer any Trusts and carry out the specific instructions spelled out in your Last Will and Testament. Some people worry about assigning roles fairly amongst their children or other family members. Be cognizant that these positions aren’t all fun and games. They carry significant weight and require both dedication and integrity on the part of the individual(s). While weighing candidates, consider their age, health, overall aptitude, and geographical location. Some people may feel more comfortable electing CPAs, attorneys, or Trust companies to serve as either sole or co-fiduciaries of their estates. While additional fees apply, having the guidance and expertise of a professional can alleviate the stress and guesswork for your loved ones during a sometimes difficult and often emotional process.

At Lannik Law we encounter the “single agent without an alternative” dilemma at least once per week!

Taking a few proactive measures now with our guidance can help circumvent unnecessary red tape in the future. If you wish to add or modify agents or fiduciaries in your Estate Planning documents, visit to learn more and contact our office at 617-431-2669 to schedule an appointment today!