Can Someone With the Power of Attorney Change Someone Else's Will Before He Is Dead?

By Andrine Redsteer

A power of attorney grants an agent, sometimes called an "attorney-in-fact," the authority to act on behalf of the grantor, or "principal." Power of attorney documents may grant an attorney-in-fact limited authority, such as the authority to pay bills, or more general authority, such as the authority to manage the principal's finances. However, a power of attorney cannot give an agent the authority to change a will. In fact, the only person with the authority to change a will is the person who made it.

Power of Attorney

Although power of attorney documents may grant very broad authority, they cannot grant a right to change a principal's will before his death. An attorney-in-fact's powers may include the ability to buy and sell real estate and to access the principal's bank accounts. An attorney-in-fact may also have the power to make health care decisions if the principal becomes incapacitated. Although the specific laws vary among states, certain formalities are required when wills are executed or changed.

Wills and Will Formalities

A person who makes a will -- the "testator" -- is required to follow certain formalities when making a will. These formalities are required when changing a will as well. For example, testators must be fully aware of the implications of making a will; they are also required to have the capacity to recognize family members and understand the extent of their property. Generally, wills must be written by the testator, attested by at least two witnesses and signed by the testator.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Revoking or Amending a Will

Testators may change a will by executing a codicil or revoke an entire will by making a new one. Generally, the same formalities are required when a will is changed, meaning that codicils typically require witnesses and the testator's own signature. No one else is authorized to revoke or change a will for a testator during his lifetime or after. A testator may not delegate the power to change his will to someone else, including an attorney-in-fact. Some states allow someone else to sign for the testator if the testator is incapable of signing for himself; however, it must be at his direction and in his presence.

Probate Proceedings

If someone other than the testator changes a will, the testator's family members may challenge the will's validity in a probate court. If a probate court decides there is sufficient evidence to suggest the testator's will was changed by someone else, the entire will may be declared invalid. When a will is declared invalid, a testator's property is generally distributed according to the laws of the state where the testator lived.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now
Can You Change a Will Using Power of Attorney?


Related articles

Do I Need a Lawyer to Add an Executor to My Will?

Even after you make a will and sign it, you can change it. Over time, you may want to change beneficiaries or executors to reflect changes in your family or friends. You don't need a lawyer to change your will, but you must make sure your changes meet your state's legal requirements.

Holographic Wills in Colorado

Your will can name someone to manage your estate, dictate who should inherit your property and even nominate guardians to look after your minor children when you die. However, your will cannot do any of these things if it is not valid under your state’s laws. Colorado allows holographic wills, but each must meet certain standards under Colorado law.

Can a Last Will Be Revoked After a Person Dies?

Individual state statutes set the rules for making, revoking, and probating last wills and testaments. An individual who makes a will, called a testator, generally has the power to revoke a will during his lifetime. After death, revocation depends on factors such as whether the will was made jointly or by one person and what the terms of the will are.

Power of Attorney

Related articles

Does Power of Attorney Become an Executor of the Will Automatically?

A power of attorney grants an individual, known as an agent or "attorney-in-fact," the power to act on behalf of the ...

Does an Amendment to a Revocable Trust Need to Be Notarized and/or Witnessed After It Is Signed?

A revocable living trust is an intangible entity that serves as a means of transferring property after the death of the ...

Can a Power of Attorney Change Beneficiaries on Bank Accounts?

An individual who has been given authority via a power of attorney, also known as an "agent," may sometimes change ...

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED