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What happens to the power of attorney after death?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2024 | Powers Of Attorney |

Understanding the complexities of legal documents can be a daunting task. One such document, a power of attorney (POA), plays a crucial role during a person’s lifetime. But what happens to it after their death?

The role of POA

A POA is a legal document that grants an individual the authority to act on behalf of another person in financial affairs, medical decisions, business or some other legal matter. The person who grants this authority is known as the principal, while the recipient of the authority is the agent or attorney-in-fact. This arrangement remains effective during the principal’s lifetime, particularly in cases of incapacity or unavailability.

The termination of POA

It is crucial to understand that the POA does not survive the death of the principal. When the principal passes away, the POA automatically ends. This means that the agent no longer has the legal authority to handle the principal’s affairs. Any actions taken by the agent after the principal’s death would be considered unauthorized and legally invalid.

Post-death procedures

After the principal’s death, the management of their affairs falls into the hands of the executor or personal representative. This is the person named in the will or appointed by the court to handle the deceased’s estate. The executor’s duties may include paying debts, filing tax returns and distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the will or state law if there is no will.

Ensuring smooth transition

To avoid confusion and potential legal issues, it is advisable for individuals to discuss their estate planning and end-of-life wishes with a qualified attorney. These discussions should include drafting a will, appointing an executor and explicitly terminating the POA upon death.

In summary, the power of attorney does not extend beyond the principal’s life. It is a powerful tool during the principal’s lifetime but does not serve as a substitute for a will or trust. Thus, it is essential to plan ahead and appoint an executor or personal representative to manage affairs after death.

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