Power of Attorney and Wills

By Chris Blank

You may grant power of attorney to an individual who serves as an agent to handle your legal or financial affairs. You may also appoint someone to serve as an executor to handle the final disposition of your estate after you die. One person may serve both functions; however, there are differences between the two sets of duties.

Power of Attorney

Someone who holds power of attorney is authorized by law to act as your agent to sign documents, access bank accounts and enter into binding contracts, according to the Free Legal Dictionary. Power of attorney may be durable, that is, it exists with no specified end date, or may apply only to a limited circumstance, such as authorizing an agent to conduct negotiations for a real estate transaction. Someone who holds power of attorney is not required to actually be an attorney, Legal Services for the Elderly states.

Executor of a Will

An executor is an individual or institution that you appoint to execute your final wishes, including distributing your assets according to the terms of your will, according to the University of Maryland University College. The executor for a will may access bank accounts held by the deceased and may pursue legal action on behalf of the estate. The privileges of an executor extend only to the extent necessary to allow her to handle the financial and legal affairs of the deceased, such as filing the final income tax return for the deceased. Once these duties are completed and the will has gone through probate, the duties of an executor end.

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Advance Directive

An advance directive is either a living will or a durable power of attorney for health related issues, specifically end-of-life care, Medline Plus states. A durable power of attorney for health care appoints an agent to act as health care proxy in the event that you are unable to communicate due to illness or traumatic injury. A living will expresses your wishes to receive or refuse life support, as well as states whether you wish to donate vital organs.

Conservatorship and Dying Intestate

In the event that you become mentally or physically incapacitated without having appointed an agent to act as power of attorney or without having an advance directive in place, the courts will often appoint an conservator to handle your financial or legal affairs, according to the California Courts Self Help Center. If you die intestate, or without a valid will, the courts will often appoint an executor to distribute the assets of your estate according to the laws of your state, the American Bar Association states.

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Difference of Power of Attorney & Executor of Will
 

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Possible Power of Attorney Complications

A power of attorney can be an effective way to delegate responsibility for managing your finances and making health-related decisions when you are no longer able or willing to make these decisions yourself. However, complications can arise from the time the POA is executed up until the point that all duties have been performed by the person you appoint.

Is Power of Attorney Valid After Death?

If you wish to give another person the authority to make important decisions and act on your behalf, you may draw up a power of attorney, or POA. This document allows an agent to sign documents or otherwise act in your place. A specific POA grants authority over a single matter or field, while a general POA gives blanket authorization in any and all matters, as allowed by state law. The POA expires under certain circumstances, including death.

Can You Use Power of Attorney When a Person Is Alive?

A power of attorney is a document executed by someone referred to as a principal authorizing another person known as an agent or attorney-in-fact to act for her in performing certain actions or managing her affairs. Not only may you, as agent, use a power of attorney when the principal is alive, but you should not attempt to use one after she is deceased. Powers of attorney terminate upon the principal's death. In contrast, a court-appointed executor, often referred to as a personal representative, usually takes charge of legal and financial matters for the estate of someone who dies.

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