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What Happens to Power of Attorney After Death?

By Daphne Mallory
Updated: May 16, 2024

Power of attorney ends after death. No matter what type it is — a durable power attorney, irrevocable power of attorney, or enduring power of attorney — the rights of the attorney, attorney-in-fact, or agent terminate. These three terms are all descriptive of the person who is granted powers to manage some or all aspects of the grantor’s or donor’s life. Some of the powers include making decisions about medical treatment, buying and selling real estate, and initiating a lawsuit on the grantor’s behalf. There are other ways for individuals to give powers to someone to act on behalf of their estate after death, such as naming the person as an executor in a will or as a trustee.

The legal documents that pertain to how an individual’s estate is managed after death include a will or a trust. In cases where the decedent dies intestate, or without a will, the court will determine how to dispose of the estate and name an executor in the process. A power of attorney cannot take the place of a will, and it is often no longer deemed valid.

The only way that individuals can continue the rights granted to the attorney or attorney-in-fact in the power of attorney is to give them those powers in a trust agreement or to name them as an executor. If the power of attorney pertains to managing health-related affairs of minor children, then naming the agent as a guardian in the will continues those powers after death. If all the decedent has is the power of attorney after death, then the court will appoint a guardian of the child.

If the grantor wants to give an attorney-in-fact the authority to access his or her bank accounts or other accounts at financial institutions after death, the grantor has to name that person on the account as a joint owner or authorized signatory. An executor of the will has the right to access the account once he can obtain a letter of testamentary from the probate court verifying that he is approved to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Banks sometimes offer a simplified process, which includes providing a death certificate and a sworn affidavit wherein the affiant attests to assuming her designated duties as an executor. A limited power of attorney grants the same powers while the grantor is alive, but the document is no longer valid after the person's death.

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Discussion Comments
By anon934897 — On Feb 22, 2014

If checks were written by the POA before the person died, but the money for the checks did not reach the account until after the person passed, will the checks still be honoured?

By anon934895 — On Feb 22, 2014

If I have a joint account with my husband and he dies, will I still be able to access the account or is it frozen until the will is taken care of?

By anon348980 — On Sep 22, 2013

The gpa cannot be valid after a person's death because the gpa elapses after the death of the person who executed it.

In case gpa is by four partners of a firm and the gpa further appoints special powers of attorney. In the case one of the gpa dies, what will happen to gpa?

By anon291869 — On Sep 17, 2012

I purchased by registry a land from the honor in January 2012 and he gave a power of attorney to an agent on later that month. Now the agent has a court case against me and the seller of the land. What should I do?

By SarahGen — On Aug 04, 2012

@ysmina-- That's horrible! I can't believe people stoop so low to take advantage of the power of attorney. Even if he wasn't aware of her death, his power of attorney form should have automatically been canceled. It's rare, but I think sometimes this happens in the US too.

Did your relatives have to file a civil suit against that person? I wonder if a complaint to the property registrar would solve the problem?

I mean, since the power of attorney is null after the person who gave it passes away, what he did was illegal anyway. They should be able to nullify the property transfer.

Legal matters can be really confusing though. I just hope your issue gets resolved soon.

By ysmina — On Aug 03, 2012

@turquoise-- Yea, making a last will and testament is a good idea.

I actually have a distant relative who lives abroad, not in the US, that used the power of attorney after the death of my great aunt.

Apparently, my great aunt had given the power of attorney to him so that he can manage a piece of land she owned. No one else was aware of this fact and after her death, he actually transferred the property to his name using the power of attorney. My relatives on my uncle's side are now fighting in court to try to get the property back.

I'm sure things are more strict in the US and something like this couldn't take place without the person getting caught. But in countries where the authorities are not as careful, I guess it can happen.

By turquoise — On Aug 03, 2012

I'm glad I ran into this article because I thought that an enduring power of attorney is still applicable after death.

My brother is both the enduring power of attorney and the lasting power of attorney for our father. My dad has Alzheimer and my brother basically pays his bills for him and makes medical decisions when necessary. I think my dad was wise to give him this power while he was still well. Because his condition is deteriorating and he is unable to do these things himself now.

Now the question arises, what are are we going to do after his death? I guess my brother knows that his powers of attorney will not be applicable after that. So I guess we need to discuss a will as soon as possible.

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