Demystifying the Roles: Executor vs. Power of Attorney

Understanding the Role of an Executor and Power of Attorney

As a Virginia estate planning lawyer, I often receive questions about the roles and responsibilities of an executor and a power of attorney (POA). Better understanding what these roles require will help you determine who should be named as you make your own estate plan. Here’s an example in property sales that highlights a common misunderstanding:

“My mom is in a nursing home and her house is sitting vacant. She named me as the Executor of her will, and I want to meet with a realtor to get it sold. I’m being told by the title agency that I don’t have the right to do that. How is that the case?”

Understanding the distinctions between an executor and a POA can help clarify this situation.

Executor’s Role After Death

An executor is a person appointed in a will to manage the deceased person’s estate after their death. This role carries responsibilities designed to ensure the orderly distribution of the deceased person’s assets and financial matters. This includes paying off debts, distributing assets to the beneficiaries, and, if necessary, selling property. However, the role of an executor only becomes effective after the person’s death.

Power of Attorney While Alive

If your mother is still alive, even though she is living in a nursing home, she is the only one who has the legal authority to sell her house unless she has granted someone Power of Attorney (POA). A POA is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to act on her behalf in legal or financial matters. This can include selling property, provided the POA document grants that specific authority.

Consult with a Virginia Estate Planning Lawyer

Understanding the legal intricacies of estate planning, including the roles of executors and POAs, can feel overwhelming. As an experienced estate planning lawyer in Virginia (including Alexandria, Springfield, Fairfax, McLean, and Arlington) , I can guide you through these processes, ensuring you understand your rights, roles, and responsibilities. If you find yourself in a similar situation or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (703) 215-2088 or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.