Is Power of Attorney Valid After Death?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Is Power of Attorney Valid After Death?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Regardless of the type of authority you give, a power of attorney, or POA, is no longer valid after you die. But if you want a friend or family member to have the power to help you navigate certain parts of your life while you are alive, this type of relationship may be what you need. It is important to note, though, that this is separate from the relationship you create with the person who will handle your will once you pass.

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Power of Attorney Basics

A POA is a legal relationship you can create with another person, called an agent, that allows them to sign documents for you or make decisions on your behalf. You can allow this person to handle many different parts of your life or limit their involvement. You may grant many powers in a single financial document, but you must give the power to make health care decisions on your behalf in a separate healthcare power of attorney.

By creating this relationship, you give someone else the power to assist you during your life. You must be mentally competent when you sign the documentation. You can dictate whether it goes into effect immediately or once you need help making decisions.

Keep in mind that when you give authority to your agent, that person represents you in the capacity you've designated while you are alive. When you name someone as executor of your estate, that person represents your estate and manages your affairs after you pass. You can also choose the same individual as your agent and executor.

Nondurable vs. Durable Powers of Attorney

Whether a power of attorney for the management of financial affairs remains valid when you become sick depends on whether it is durable or nondurable. Nondurable authority ends when you become incapacitated, but a durable one remains valid and allows your agent to continue to represent you if you become incapacitated.

A healthcare POA is designed for this very situation and remains valid if you become sick to the point that you are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate your health care decisions. The agent actually has no authority until this occurs. As long as you are able to make your own health care decisions, medical providers will follow the instructions you give them, not those of your agent.

Creating a Power of Attorney

The laws of the state where you create your financial and healthcare powers of attorney set the rules and requirements for their validity. While many states have similar requirements, state laws vary on some points, such as what language you must include and if your signature on the document needs witnesses or notarization.

If you are ready to draft a power of attorney agreement, keep these details in mind. Authority granted in this instance is valid only while you are alive. Once you pass away, the power immediately ends. At that point, the executor of your will is in charge of your estate and assets. If you want to obtain additional information, you should visit your state's respective website to learn what is required of you when drafting a POA.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.