What Are Your Power of Attorney’s Powers After You Die?

Sorry, this is a trick question, but it comes up frequently. Here’s the scenario: mom or dad has recently passed away and the son or daughter, who is named as the parent’s agent in a power of attorney and executor in the parent’s last will and testament, wants to know the steps required to access mom’s or dad’s bank accounts, sell the house, etc. When I explain to the son or daughter that because the bank accounts and house are titled in mom’s or dad’s sole name, the will has to be filed for probate so that the son or daughter can be appointed as the executor, then the son or daughter, as the executor, will be able to gain access to the bank accounts and sell the house, the son or daughter responds, “Well, I’m the power of attorney, so I can write checks to pay bills and close out the bank accounts and list the house for sale.”

Actually, no, the son or daughter cannot use their parent’s Power of Attorney after mom or dad has died because the authority granted to the son or daughter by their parent through the Power of Attorney unfortunately died with mom or dad. After death, authority to act on a deceased parent’s behalf is granted by a probate court. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as a small estate that does not require an executor, or if the parent’s used of a revocable living trust in which a successor trustee steps into the shoes of parent after he or she dies, but these exceptions are limited.

So what are the duties of your Power of Attorney after you die? Nothing,
absolutely nothing.

By Julie Garber, About.com Guide



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