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Friday, December 24, 2010

Can a person have more than one Power of Attorney document at a time?

In this post I'm not talking about having more than one person acting as attorney under one Power of Attorney document. I'm talking about having two documents at the same time, each of which appoints a different attorney to look after things. Having two documents at once is not the usual way of doing things, partly because having more than one can create confusion, and partly because it simply isn't needed by most people.

However, in some circumstances, a person might want more than one document at a time. This is legal. But I have to warn you that if you're one of those people who never tells the lawyer the whole story and doles out snippets of information on a need-to-know basis, this idea isn't for you. Having more than one Power of Attorney can only work where the drafting lawyer knows the whole picture and can set up your documents accordingly.

For example, if you have a Power of Attorney in place right now, take a look at the first line. It says that the document revokes all other Powers of Attorney that you've made. How is that going to work if your drafting lawyer doesn't know there is another Power of Attorney out there that is not intended to be revoked? And of course there are larger issues too, the most problematic of them being which property is to be controlled by which attorney.

The wording of the documents is crucial in order for them to be effective. I don't recommend trying to prepare these on your own without a lawyer to help.

A person who owns a business may want and need multiple Powers of Attorney. By using more than one, the business owner can appoint one person (likely a business partner) to look after just business assets and a separate person (likely a spouse or adult child) to look after personal and family assets.

A person might also have multiple Powers of Attorney if he or she owns property in more than one geographical jurisdiction. For example, we have a number of clients who own homes in Arizona, Florida or Mexico. A Power of Attorney made in a Canadian province and governed by our laws is generally not recognized in other countries so it's necessary to have a separate document made there.

For most of us, having one document that appoints a first choice of attorney and an alternate choice is sufficient for our needs. If you think you might need more than one, talk to your estate planning lawyer.

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