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Agent is a legal term used to describe a person that has been entrusted with important powers or responsibilities that are to be carried out on behalf of another person.

These individuals may also be referred to as attorney-in-fact or simply attorney, depending on their expertise and duties. They are usually empowered with the legal authority to make decisions for the appointing person and will normally stand-in for them when consenting to important agreements such as contract signings and acquisitions.

This article explains more about the abilities and responsibilities of appointed agents. Read on to find out more about what people may do in this position and how they may be appointed in this capacity.

Types of Agents

There are different classifications of agents that can be called upon depending on your necessities. These include the following 3 legal types of agent:

  • General agents: This variety of agent is able to represent their clients in specific kinds of transactions. A common example of this is a talent agent.
  • Universal agents: These kinds of agents have much wider powers than other varieties and may represent their principal in financial, legal, and health matters. This type of agent is normally appointed under a Power of Attorney.
  • Special agents: These agents are more limited in the scope of their responsibilities. They can usually represent their client or appointer for one-time transactions. Common varieties of special agents include professionals such as travel agents or real estate agents.

What Can and Can’t Agents Do?

Agents normally derive their authority from a legal agreement such as a [Power of Attorney] Alternatively, they might be appointed by a company to carry out the steps of a business plan or to represent the company in their tax, financial, or legal affairs under the terms of an LLC operating agreement.

Nevertheless, their powers are finite and will usually be limited to specific duties and responsibilities. They must also ensure that they always act in the best interests of the appointing authority or they may be stripped of their duties and potentially subject to litigation.

What Agents Can Do

When agents are granted their responsibilities under a Power of Attorney or by a business, they will take on a number of important duties. These obligations include:

  • Signing contracts
  • Representing the appointing authority in face-to-face meetings
  • Carrying out transactions
  • Making decisions for the appointer
  • Buying and selling stocks and shares
  • Registering for and collecting government benefits

What Agents Cannot Do

Agents may not act completely unilaterally and must always work to ensure that the interests of the person or entity that has appointed them are properly represented. This means that they must not:

  • Enrich themselves at the expense of the appointing authority.
  • Transfer the principal or company’s properties to themselves.
  • Carry out actions for the appointing authority that they haven’t been granted permission to perform.

How to Be Appointed as Someone’s Agent

There are a few ways that you might be appointed as an agent for an individual or company depending on their needs. However, you may be selected as an agent if you fit one of the following criteria:

  • You are an expert in your field.
  • You are a trusted friend or family member of the principal.
  • You have detailed knowledge of the dealings that the appointing individual requires.

In all cases, the appointing authority and the agent will first discuss the business that is to be carried out and then will sign an agreement or legal contract that empowers them to act on their behalf where necessary. This will then allow the appointee to complete the tasks as agreed.

What is a Mandatary?

In some jurisdictions, (for example: Louisiana Civil Code. CC 2989 the term “mandatary” can be used as an alternative name for your agent. This is used because of the legal “mandate” that is conferred upon the Attorney-in-Fact by the principal to carry out their personal affairs.