Power of Attorney After Death: What You Need to Know

When you sign a power of attorney (POA), it means you can handle someone else’s business for them.

However, the power of attorney after death automatically ends.

There might be an exception if they named you as the person in charge after they’re gone.

If someone trusted you enough to be their power of attorney before they died, it shows they believed you could handle things for them.

Another exception is if you have to go through a legal process called probate and are chosen to manage their stuff because they didn’t leave a will.

This guide explains how power of attorney works and if it stops when someone dies.

An Image of a Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney After Death

What is Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is like a special document that lets someone choose a trusted person to help them with important things.

This helper called the agent, can do tasks such as cashing checks, signing papers, and managing money for the person.

The agent needs to know what to do.

Some people don’t really get how it works, but it’s important to understand, especially to know what happens if the person who gave the power of attorney passes away.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are different types of power of attorney, depending on what someone needs.

Here are five kinds:

  1. Durable and Nondurable Power of Attorney: The agent in a durable power of attorney acts on behalf of the principal in situations where the latter can’t make decisions. In a non-durable power of attorney, the agent’s authority ends once the principal can’t make decisions. A non-durable power of attorney is not great for estate planning.
  2. Springing POA: The agent can only help if something specific happens, like if the person can’t make decisions. This type of power of attorney usually doesn’t have much power.
  3. General Power of Attorney: The agent can assist in all situations allowed by the law, but the person can still handle some things on their own.
  4. Financial POA: The agent can make decisions about the person’s money and property, like paying bills or managing retirement benefits.
  5. Medical Power of Attorney: The helper can make decisions about medical care, like treatment or end-of-life care.

After someone passes away, it’s really important to protect their things.

What Happens to The Power of Attorney After Death if Your Loved One Left a Will?

Once someone has passed away, they can’t own property anymore, and you can’t make choices for them.

To give what was left behind to their family, we need to go through a process called probate.

The paper they wrote about what they want (the will) has to be given to a special court soon after they die, especially if they owned things on their own like a bank account.

Giving the will to probate is like officially starting the process of giving the things to the family. The person named in the paper as the one in charge (executor) is the person who makes sure everything happens the right way.

An Image of a Principal and an Agent with the Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney after Death With a Will. Photo Source (Freepik)

Does Power of Attorney End at Death if There’s No Will?

To make sure your loved one’s things are given to the right people, we have to go through a process called probate unless there’s a will.

If there’s no will, the state’s rules decide who gets what, not what your loved one wants.

The court picks someone (an administrator) to handle everything, but you can ask to be the administrator.

They’ll probably say yes if there’s no surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse and kids, who usually get the things, agree to have you in charge.

But if they don’t like how you’re doing things, they might argue about it in court.

What Is Abuse of Power of Attorney After Death?

When the person who gave you the power of attorney (POA) dies, it automatically ends.

As the helper, you need to stop doing things for them right away.

If you keep going, it’s like misusing your power, which is not okay and could be a crime.

Misusing your power means doing things like taking their stuff for yourself, which is called inheritance hijacking.

Others might only find out about this after the person dies, and if they do, they can tell the court about it.

Legal Remedies for Abuse of Power of Attorney After Death

An agent must be honest and loyal.

If they alter the belongings of the deceased person for personal gain, it may be considered a crime such as stealing, fraud, or embezzlement.

If someone thinks the agent did something wrong, the district attorney might press charges.

The person who’s supposed to get the stuff (heir or beneficiary) can ask the court to make the agent give back what they took.

Breaking these rules could lead to serious penalties in civil law, like big fines or going to jail for taking someone’s inheritance.

Conclusion

A power of attorney (POA) helps someone handle another person’s stuff, but it usually stops when that person passes away.

Different types of POA exist for different needs, like money or medical decisions.

After someone dies, the process of probate is necessary to distribute their belongings, particularly if there is a will.

Misusing the power of attorney after someone dies is a big problem and can lead to serious trouble, like fines or going to jail.

Understanding these things is crucial to ensuring proper handling and respecting the wishes of the person who passed away.