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Can you have more than one power of attorney?

Have questions about whether you can you have more than one power of attorney? Read on for what to know about having multiple POAs.

evident Editorial Team
January 25, 2024
Family, parents with child

As people get their estate planning documents in order, two questions often arise: "Can a person have more than one power of attorney?" and "Can more than one person have power of attorney?"

Though these are two slightly different questions, the answer to both is Yes: a person can both create more than one power of attorney document and name more than one agent within a power of attorney if they so choose.

But there can be pros and cons to creating multiple powers of attorney or to naming multiple agents in any particular power of attorney. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both questions and explain what you should consider if you find yourself wondering, “Can you have more than one power of attorney?”

Key Takeaways

Power of Attorney Overview

A power of attorney (or POA for short) is a legal document that authorizes another person to act on your behalf. When you (the principal) create a power of attorney, you give another person (known as the agent or “attorney-in-fact”) the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf for things such as your finances, property, or even health care decisions. 

A power of attorney must be created voluntarily while the principal is of sound mind, and it may be created with or without a lawyer's assistance.

There are multiple types of power of attorney, and the type of POA affects what decisions the agent is authorized to make. We'll discuss the different types below, but you can check out our article on What is a power of attorney? for a more in-depth discussion.

Can more than one person have power of attorney?

Let’s start with the more common question, which is whether or not two people can have power of attorney. The short answer is yes: a principal can name two agents (or three, or four, etc.) in their power of attorney. 

State laws vary, but there are generally only two requirements to be an agent:

  • The agent must be of sound mind, and 
  • The agent must be at least 18 years of age. 

But as long as both agents meet the requirements, it is perfectly acceptable for a principal to give more than one person power of attorney. 

People often name family members, such as spouses or children, as agents in their POA documents. Professionals, such as lawyers or accountants, could also fill the role, though they are more likely to charge a fee for their services. 

Can more than one family member have power of attorney?

A more specific question that people also ask is, “can more than one family member have power of attorney?” For instance, can two siblings have power of attorney?

Again, the answer is Yes: more than one family member could have power of attorney, whether that’s two siblings, a spouse and a child, or other family members. In fact, this is commonly the case.

Let’s consider an example: suppose there is an aging parent with two children. The parent might know they could soon need help managing their legal and financial affairs but not want to choose between their children when naming an agent. So the parent could give power of attorney to the two siblings (their children) instead of choosing between them.

Another example of when more than one family member could have power of attorney is if a person wants to give power of attorney to their spouse, but their spouse is around the same age. Knowing that both they and their spouse might need help managing their affairs at the same time, the principal could give power of attorney to another family member (such as a son or daughter) along with their spouse. 

And note that in this context, “children” must be adult children (i.e. over 18 years old) to be named an agent in a power of attorney. 

Can a person have more than one power of attorney document?

man, sign, paper

Now, the closely related but slightly different question: can you have more than one POA?

Yes, a person can create more than one power of attorney document, and people often do. To get a better sense of why someone might create more than one power of attorney, let’s return to the different types of power of attorney and what authority they give an agent.

Types of Power of Attorney

As mentioned, powers of attorney can serve a variety of purposes and can be either broad or narrow in their scope.

Here’s a list of some of the common types of power of attorney:

  • General Power of Attorney – The agent acts on behalf of the principal on all matters. This means the agent can manage the principal’s bank accounts, sell their assets, manage their government benefits like Social Security, and make decisions about their healthcare.
  • Special Power of Attorney – The agent’s power is restricted to specific matters. You could authorize an agent exclusively to manage your bank accounts. Under this type of POA, they would have no authority over your other affairs.
  • Financial Power of Attorney – The agent has authority over the principal’s financial matters. This is a type of special power of attorney. 
  • Medical Power of Attorney – Also known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney, this authorizes the agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal if they cannot make those decisions themselves (such as if they are on life support or in a coma). 

Another crucial distinction is between a durable power of attorney, which remains effective if the principal becomes incapacitated, and a non-durable POA, which does not. In some states, new POAs are assumed to be durable powers of attorney by default.

Having multiple POAs

So, can you have two power of attorneys? Yes, and people often do create more than one type of POA. 

For example, suppose a principal has two children, one of whom is financially savvier. A person could create a Financial POA naming that child as their agent to handle financial tasks on their behalf while separately creating a Medical POA in which their other child is authorized to  make medical decisions on their behalf. 

Additionally, consider the situation where a principal wants to create a limited power of attorney--perhaps to execute a single transaction, or for a narrow time period while they are traveling abroad--but also has a General POA in place in case they need help managing their affairs, whether because of aging or an incident which impacts their mental capacity. It is perfectly acceptable for the principal to create multiple legal documents to fulfill these different needs and to name separate attorneys-in-fact for these different purposes.

Pros and cons of having more than one power of attorney

So can you have more than one power of attorney? Yes, you can have multiple power of attorneys. But should you?

There are pros and cons to having more than one power of attorney document, or to naming two or more agents within a POA. Whether or not it makes sense to have multiple POAs will depend on your particular circumstances and what you are trying to accomplish with your power of attorney documents. 

Pros and Cons of Appointing More Than One Agent

When it comes to naming multiple agents, one advantage is that it can be helpful to have two different people who can make a decision if a time-sensitive matter arises. It can also ease the burden of placing all the decision-making responsibilities that come with being an attorney-in-fact on one person’s shoulders. 

That said, one of the primary disadvantages of naming two or more agents in a power of attorney is the potential for conflict between co-agents if they disagree about what action to take. Reasonable people can disagree about what would be in the principal’s best interests, and if co-agents have different views, it can create conflict or even slow down the decision-making process.

Additionally, having multiple agents in your POA also creates the possibility that they could inadvertently make conflicting decisions if there is a communication breakdown and they both attempt to act independently on your behalf. 

Keep in mind that as long as the principal is legally mentally competent, the principal can always revoke or override a POA. But these scenarios still risk complications or issues even in the best of circumstances.

Pros and Cons of Creating More Than One Power of Attorney Document

Some of these considerations could also apply to the pros and cons of creating more than one POA document. For instance, you probably want to be careful about creating multiple POAs that grant overlapping authority. And if you do, it’s probably wise to make sure the attorney-in-fact named in each POA is aware of the other POA and the authority it grants.

But typically, the decision about whether to create more than one power of attorney document depends on a principal's particular circumstances and, therefore, more on whether there is a specific purpose the POA is intended to achieve. 

The decision to have more than one power of attorney can also depend on the circumstances of the agents. Meghan Freed, Managing Co-Partner of Freed Mancroft, explains: "In some cases, being a power of attorney requires a lot of your time and energy, and a person may anticipate needing assistance with different matters at different times. Creating powers of attorney with specific timeframes or triggers can help ensure that the right person is authorized at the right time, and it takes the pressure off one designated person."

Freed also notes, "Another major consideration I have seen working in family law is that there are sometimes complex family dynamics which could influence the decision to appoint different individuals for specific roles. This can help navigate potential conflicts or disagreements among family members and help to keep relationships intact."

The Bottom Line

So, can you have two power of attorneys? Yes, a person can have more than one POA document, and they can also name more than one agent within a POA.

Whether or not it makes sense to do so, however, will depend on a person's particular circumstances. And while there can be reasons to have more than one agent (or more than one type of POA), doing so can also have disadvantages.

If you have questions about what makes the most sense for you, consider speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney who can offer insights specific to your situation.