How to Select an Agent or Trustee

Authored By: Alaska Legal Services

Choosing a responsible agent or trustee is very important.

When preparing a Power of Attorney, an Advanced Health Care Directive, drafting a will, or when creating a trust, perhaps the most important decision to make is who you want to appoint as your agent or trustee.

An agent is a person you have chosen to act on your behalf. In legal speak, when you appoint an agent you are called the “principal” of the agent.  The Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive, or will that you are preparing will describe the powers that you, the principal, are giving to your agent. 

A trustee is the person who will have authority over a trust and any money in that trust.  The powers of a trustee are set out in the trust document that you sign.

The powers given to an agent or trustee can be very strong, that is why they are so useful. 

But as with superheros, with great power, comes great responsibility.  And that means it is very important that you choose a responsible agent.  

If there is only one person available to be your agent and you have concerns about how responsible they are, you should ask an attorney about adding some checks or limits to the agent’s powers into your Power of Attorney.  Alaska Legal Services may be able to help with that, see for how to apply.

Guidelines to help you select a responsible Agent or Trustee

  • Make decisions as the principal would.
  • Safeguard the principal and their property. 
  • Understand the powers given by the principal and the limits of those powers.
  • Keep the principal informed of decisions (and involved in decisions, if possible).
  • Communication with other family members of the principal.
  • Understand the purpose and rules of the trust.
  • Stay active in managing the trust.
  • Safeguard any money or assets in the trust.
  • Communicate with the beneficiary of the trust.
  • Usually, make sure any money or assets in the trust are used to benefit of the trust's beneficiary.
  • You trust.
  • You are comfortable talking to.
  • Wants to be appointed as your agent.
  • Is organized in their own life.
  • Has personal financial problems.
  • Might have a substance abuse or dependence problem.
  • Has a sense of entitlement (who thinks they are owed things).
  • Is often in conflict with your other family members.
  • Is sometimes unavailable.
Last Review and Update: Mar 01, 2024
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