What is the difference between the Personal Representative and Power of Attorney?

Can you explain the difference in duties required by the person who is the Personal Representative and the person who has the Power of Attorney?  

The primary difference between the Personal Representative (“PR”) and the person appointed under a power of attorney the attorney in fact (the “POA”) is that the PR is administering the estate after the person has passed away and the POA is caring for the person while they are incapacitated, but still living.  POA powers terminate upon death.

Personal Representative

  •  The PR is responsible for securing the Last Will and Testament of the decedent (if there is one) and distributing the decedent’s property according to the terms of the Will. There are usually bills to pay, a tax return to file, personal belongings to gather and other items that need to be addressed. In some cases, a probate proceeding may be necessary.  The PR would be responsible for getting this proceeding filed and completed (with the assistance of an attorney).

Attorney in Fact

  •  The POA receives power to act on behalf of the incapacitated person when the person is determined to be incapacitated under the terms of the power of attorney document.  Typically, this is when a determination is made by at least one medical professional that person can no longer care for themselves.
  • The POA is charged with taking care of the incapacitated person’s financial needs, health and welfare needs and other day-to-day to issues.  For example, a POA may pay bills, communicate with the doctors and make decisions about the incapacitated person is going to be cared for.
  •  Legally, it probably makes no difference whether it is the same person who is POA and PR.  However, practically, many times the other spouse is the person chosen to be both the POA and then the PR.  A person who has acted as the POA and then acts as the PR has a bit of an advantage because they already have experience with the decedent’s estate.

 Is it best that whoever is appointed to act following the death of both spouses be the same person?

Whether it is best to have the same person as POA and PR for both spouses if you are both either incapacitated or pass way simultaneously depends on several things.

  • Is the person you appoint to act as POA capable of caring for two incapacitated people at the same time?
  • Will or could that person also have duties to care for minor children as well as the new guardian? Again, if the same person is PR and there is a simultaneous death of both spouses, the person must be capable of administering both estates.  It can be done, it is simply a question of the competency of the person who is appointed.
  • Practically, where there is one person who both husband and wife are comfortable with, that person is often appointed successor PR of both estates.

 

Posted by Shawn Roberts

I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. I tend to focus on estate planning and business issues. I make a living as an attorney working for Resolution Legal Group in Oklahoma City. I am husband to Amy and the father of Sam and David. We live exactly in the path where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."