Does a Financial Power of Attorney Mean You're an Executor to the Will?

By Chris Blank

Exercising power of attorney for a living person or serving as an executor to the will of a deceased individual entails significant duties. Someone who holds power of attorney for an individual may also be the executor of that person's will. However, exercising power of attorney involves very different duties and responsibilities than serving as the executor of a will.

Definition of an Executor

The executor is charged with disposing of the estate of the deceased. The deceased may appoint an executor before death. If an individual dies intestate, or without a will, the court disposes of the deceased's estate. Any person who is competent to create a will can serve as an executor. Many individuals appoint family members and friends as executors, but the job is best left to professionals unless the appointed individual has appropriate training in finance and law or enlists the services of a bank or trust to serve as co-executor, Bankrate.com advises. The work of an executor may require 12 to 18 months to complete.

Power of Attorney Definition

Power of attorney empowers one person to serve as an agent to handle the legal and financial affairs of another person when she is physically or mentally incapacitated. Power of attorney may be durable, which means that the agent is empowered to deal with all the legal and financial affairs of the incapacitated person, according to Legal Services for the Elderly. An advance directive is a specific type of power of attorney that allows the agent to make medical and end-of-life decisions pertaining to the named individual.

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Duties of an Executor

In disposing of the estate of the deceased, the executor is charged with a fiduciary duty, or heightened level of responsibility, to carry out his wishes. In performing these duties, the executor must take an inventory of the estate; locate eligible heirs; provide official death notices to creditors where the deceased had accounts; obtain an official court petition to probate the will; maintain the integrity of the estate by paying bills, maintaining insurance policies and heading off overeager heirs; file the final estate income tax return, which is due within 9 months after the death of the deceased; file the final state and federal income tax returns for the deceased; and arrange for the care of minor children, Bankrate.com states.

Power of Attorney Duties

An individual holding power of attorney has a fiduciary duty to carry out his duties according to the interests of the incapacitated individual. In order to carry out his duties, the agent is authorized to withdraw money from the bank account of the incapacitated individual, write checks on her behalf, enter into contracts and pursue insurance claims and lawsuits, according to Legal Services for the Elderly. He may also authorize certain medical procedures such as emergency surgery.

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Power of Attorney and Wills

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Types of Power of Attorney for Elderly Family Members

The health of an aging family member may determine the type of power of attorney she will agree to or is able to sign. A power of attorney is a document whereby someone known as the principal will appoint an agent or attorney-in-fact to act on her behalf. A principal often grants power of attorney to a trusted family member with a keen business sense so that she knows her affairs are being handled according to her wishes.

The Responsibilities of Medical Durable Power of Attorney for the Elderly

If a person becomes incapacitated, perhaps because of a mental illness like dementia, he can no longer make health care decisions for himself as he once did. If he created a durable medical power of attorney, he named an agent to make his health care decisions if and when he becomes unable to do so and this agent is responsible for following his wishes closely and acting in his best interests.

Adult Guardianship & Power of Attorney Conflict

A guardian may make decisions and care for another person, known as a ward, who is no longer able to take care of herself. Under a power of attorney, a person called an agent or attorney-in-fact may act for another person, known as the principal. A conflict over what's best for the person who needs care sometimes arises between the agent and the guardian. Such conflicts are often resolved by the guidelines set forth in state law or a legal proceeding.

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