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Are powers of attorney applicable after death?

A power of attorney makes important financial and medical decisions on a person's behalf when serious illness or injury is present. However, when that person dies their power of attorney is no longer valid, meaning the person appointed is no longer capable of making such decisions. The Balance explains how estates are handled after a person is deceased. 

A power of attorney loses authority upon a person's death because a dead person cannot legally own property. All property and assets are passed along to probate court, where a number of processes take place. Debts will be paid off, estate taxes will be settled, and heirs will receive assets and property. People with wills in place upon their death go through probate, as do people without wills. There are key differences in representation in both cases. 

When you have a will, you'll also need to name an executor responsible for carrying out all associated duties. While the executor can be the same person awarded power of attorney, that's not always the case. In any event, the executor of the will is responsible for making financial decisions in a similar manner to a power of attorney. This includes corresponding with creditors and paying bills as necessary. Of course, some people die without a will in place.

If so, state laws will dictate how assets are dispersed. The court will also need to implement a personal representative, who performs the same tasks as the executor. The court ultimately decides who gets to administer the estate, but you can also apply for the job. In most cases, the court chooses someone from the deceased's immediate family, such as a spouse or child. If no such people are available, the court will choose the most suitable applicant for the job. 

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