What is a Posse?

We know about posses from watching western movies.  The sheriff deputized a group of men by giving them badges, and then they rode off on their horses to catch the cattle thief.  The posse was an organized group who were endowed with certain powers and duties of loyalty to the sheriff all in the interest of a common goal, to enforce the law.  A posse should be distinguished from a vigilante group, who may have ridden horses, but did not wear badges, and whose communal effort commonly ended with a hanging.

In our firm, we often recommend to our clients that they create posses of about 6 to 8 people.  We even offer badges that our clients can give to their posse members.  Most of the time this is just a suggestion to help our clients get more organized.  Sometimes, we are trying to circumvent vigilante behavior.

All of us should have a posse around us.  Most of us believe that we sort of do.  If we are married, our spouse is usually the primary member of the posse.  If we have adult children, we often expect that they will step up to help if we need it.  We rely on our neighbors to know something about our comings and goings.  But this is informal.  Remember, members of a posse wear badges.  But they do not all have to ride horses.

What we recommend is that our clients formally appoint a posse.  Each posse member should be asked explicitly to be a member of the posse.  A posse nominee can refuse to serve.  A posse nominee is allowed to respond by asking our client to be a member of his or her posse as well.  The role of each posse member may be different.  Each posse member should know what is expected.  For example, if an adult child is being named as an agent on a power of attorney, he or she has a role in the posse that may take daily attention to financial details.  But a neighbor may be asked only to hold a key to the house, or to know the names and types of the pets.  This is a definite role, and an important one, if we have to suddenly be taken to the hospital, but not as intimate as agent under a power of attorney.

The most important thing about posse membership is that each member of the posse knows the names and contact information of all of the other members.  So if your neighbor discovers you having fallen in your driveway, and calls 911, your neighbor should know how to contact the other posse members, who can then step up to their assigned responsibilities in this crisis.

Posse membership is a very important responsibility, and we encourage everyone to build a posse.  Whom would you choose to be in your posse?