One important aspect of estate planning involves the Power of Attorney (POA). Much confusion abounds regarding when POAs stop being in effect. We hope the following discussion will help clarify this issue.
Generally speaking, the POA is a legal document whereby one person (the principal) authorizes another person (the agent) to act on the principal’s behalf while the principal is alive. Typically, POAs involve matters of financial management. POAs can be written to give the agent broad, general powers or limited powers for specific situations only. The POA is frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability, or when the principal can’t be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.
So, for example, Mary Jones has a POA designating her son, Michael. as her agent. Her specific POA gives her son broad powers. Mary becomes disabled and needs to move into a nursing home. Some of her assets must be sold to finance her new expenses. As her agent, among other things, Michael proceeds to
– sign the contract with the nursing home.
– sell Mary’s home.
– sell some of her stocks and bonds.
– pay all of Mary’s bills on a monthly basis.
– pay Mary’s federal and state taxes.
Two years later, Mary passes away. As noted above, a POA is only in effect while the principal is alive. Upon her death, Mary’s POA, designating Michael as her agent, ceases to be in effect.
Now that Mary is deceased, her estate will become the responsibility of the Executor (designated by Mary in her Will, or, if no Executor was named, then appointed by the surrogate court). We will discuss the role of the Executor in a future article.
The important point here to remember is that an agent’s POA authority stops once the principal is deceased!
Getting Legal Help:
Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga A. Goodman, can help you understand the various aspects of estate planning and can work with you to create the right plan for you and your family. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.