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Differences between a power of attorney and an executor of a will

The duties of a power of attorney and an executor of a will are very similar. Both parties can be granted full decision-making responsibilities of a person’s affairs. However, whereas an executor manages the affairs of a person who has passed, a power of attorney can make financial and medical decisions for someone who is alive.

Read on to learn about the responsibilities of each designation.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney, also called an “agent,” has the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person, called the "principal."

You can grant a power of attorney immediate permission or grant permission upon incapacity. Typically, your power of attorney would be responsible for:

  • Making medical/healthcare decisions for you or minor children
  • Managing finances — investing money, collecting debts, cashing checks and more
  • Filing a lawsuit on your behalf

You may be able to exclude healthcare decisions from the power of attorney’s responsibilities and stipulations can also be made to the agent’s powers in general.

Executor of a will

An executor of a will is responsible for overseeing the assets and estate of a person who has passed away. You may designate this person in your will. Otherwise, an executor will be appointed by the court. Generally, the executor is responsible for:

  • Gathering and reviewing your will, trust documents, income tax returns, life insurance and bank statements
  • Assembling your assets
  • Maintaining your estate
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries
  • Paying funeral expenses, creditors and taxes

Both the agent and the executor gain many responsibilities after taking on the role. If you are considering designating either position or are overwhelmed by the responsibility of having either position, contact an attorney for advice. Lawyers with experience in estate planning can help advise the best courses of action to take for your unique circumstance.

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