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What happens to my power of attorney when I die?

As Elder Law attorneys, we are constantly recommending that our clients execute a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). The question that usually follows this recommendation is “what happens to my power of attorney when I die?” The answer is simple, it terminates upon death.

power-of-attorneyWhen a person (the principal) signs a power-of-attorney, he or she gives another person (the agent) the power to act in his place and on his behalf in managing his assets and affairs during his or her lifetime. The agent’s powers may be broad and sweeping so as to include almost any act which the principal might have performed. The Durable General Power of Attorney allows the agent to perform almost any act the principal might have performed himself regarding the financial management of his affairs.

As the principal of the POA, it is important to inform your agent that their authority can be terminated by you at any time during your lifetime, and will terminate upon your death. This is important because you do not want your agent to unknowingly attempt to act on your behalf after your death without the proper authorization.

Likewise, if you would like the person who is named agent in your power of attorney to be able to access your assets immediately upon your passing, you should take the proper steps to re-title your assets.  This would ensure that the assets pass by operation of law to that person. Otherwise, if you die with assets in your name, there may be a need to petition the court to name a fiduciary of your estate in order for your loved ones to access your assets, regardless of whether you had a DPOA during your lifetime. An even better solution is to create a revocable trust and transfer ownership of your assets to the trust, which will help avoid the need to involve the courts.

By Eric J. Einhart, Esq.Guest Blogger

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