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What is the Difference Between Co-Agents, Co-Trustees, Co-Powers of Attorney, and Co-Surrogates?

As we approach our senior years, we need to make sure that we plan ahead: we want to tie up loose ends and assign someone to handle our affairs in the event we are unable to do so. You have likely accumulated many assets and may have financial obligations. It’s important you choose a trusted family member or friend to make important decisions on your behalf. There are various options available to cover all of our various needs at this stage in life. What’s more, there are times you may want to assign tasks and divide the duties between two or more people.


Agents are individuals that you assign to take care of assets that are not part of your trust. If you don’t have a trust, the agents handle all of the assets. Agents act on your behalf while you are alive. You may name an agent and successors if the agent is unable to perform the tasks. While you can assign co-agents, it is not the standard or norm.


A living trust or revocable trust is something you oversee while you are alive. You can name a trustee or co-trustees to oversee your trust in the event that you are unable to do so. The co-trustees must take care of various tasks when necessary, such as filing taxes, overseeing investments, and accounting of the trust. Trustees must provide proper services since they are taking care of property and assets that belong to the named heirs.

Co-Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is someone you choose to take care of your legal matters and act on your behalf if you are unable to do so. A person with power of attorney is generally able to access your bank accounts to issue payments as needed and to oversee your financial and other matters. Co-powers of attorney are both allowed to take care of your needs when you are incapacitated.


A surrogate is a person you designate to act on your behalf for your healthcare needs. When you have an advanced healthcare directive in place, it is ideal to designate a surrogate. The person you choose will have the legal power to provide answers and choices for your medical needs when you are unable to do so. Co-surrogates act together to oversee your healthcare provisions.

Pros and Cons of Naming More Than One Agent or Trustee

Naming more than one agent, trustee, power of attorney, or surrogate has both benefits and drawbacks.

If you feel that you have two or more close relatives who should share in the responsibilities, you can feel secure in naming both of them. Naming more than one person ensures that the tasks will be taken care of according to your wishes.

On the other hand, disagreements can arise when the people you assigned do not agree. It is also important to note that you should always make sure to set rules in the document that require parties to act together rather than separately.

Setting up a trust and assigning agents and trustees can be complicated. It is helpful to seek legal guidance to ensure that you understand the options available and their impact. To learn more about trusts and naming agents and trustees, contact our lawyers at at (608) 784-8310 or online for a consultation.

Published October 17, 2022
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