It is important to understand and conceptualize the undeniable fact that we cannot and will not live forever. Whether injury, illness, or old age takes us, few can say.

But there may come a day when we are no longer fit or able to speak for ourselves when important decisions need to be made and there will most certainly come a time when we have passed on and the remains of our estate need to be sorted.

Learn more about the key differences between the executor of an estate and a power of attorney.

What Does Power of Attorney Do?

The person who you entrust with your power of attorney is known as your agent. As your agent, they have the ability to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot.

If you are ever too badly injured or too sick to speak or even wake, medical and financial decisions still might need to be made. Without an active power of attorney, these decisions could grind to a halt, resulting in conflict among your loved ones. With a legal power of attorney, your agent will be able to make decisions regarding your health care and finances.

Upon the event of your death, the power of attorney is no longer active or valid.

What is the Role of an Executor?

Your executor will be named in your Last Will and Testament. Upon your ultimate passing, your executor will carry out the directives stipulated in your will. As the executor of your estate, they will be responsible for settling debts with any creditors, closing accounts, and performing all necessary action in probate court, including the distribution of assets as per the instructions of the will.

The executor has no authority over your estate while you are still alive. Their role goes into effect at the time of your death and expires when all matters in your will have been properly tended to.

Can One Person Perform Both Roles?

Yes, it is common for someone to choose one individual for both their power of attorney and executor roles in an estate plan. It is not at all uncommon for a spouse to be named to both roles for their loved one’s estate plan. Ultimately, both roles need to go to someone you trust will act in your best interests and, after your passing, in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

If you feel that one person fits both of those roles, then you may do so. However, it may be necessary to make changes later in life. If you name your spouse as your estate’s executor or entrusted them to be your power of attorney agent, but the marriage ended in divorce, it may be wise to update the documents. Similarly, if the person you chose passed away before you did, you will want to amend the document.