Power of Attorney vs Executor of Estate: The Differences

Sarah J. Randall

Author: Sarah J. Randall

POST DATE: 4.12.21
Ccha  Estate Planning

One of the best things a person can do for their future is have a comprehensive estate plan in place. No matter where you are in life, it is important to clearly delineate your wishes and needs as they pertain to your assets, beneficiaries, and end-of-life decisions.

Most people understand the importance of having a plan in place but don’t have an understanding of all of the nuances and details. With so many types of estate planning documents and roles to designate, knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming. A common question that many people have is, “What is the difference between a power of attorney and an executor of an estate?” Our estate planning attorneys can help you answer this question and more.

Church Church Hittle and Antrim has been serving clients in Indiana since 1880, and we hope to have the opportunity to serve you too. Contact our team today to get started on the estate planning process.

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What Is a Power of Attorney?

Put simply, a power of attorney gives an individual, known as the agent, broad powers to act on behalf of the principal. Many of us will need a power of attorney at some point in our lifetimes, but they are especially common in an estate plan.

Powers Granted in a Power of Attorney

Common powers that you can grant to your agent in a power of attorney include the authority to:

  • Handle your financial transactions,
  • Purchase life insurance policies,
  • Settle claims with debtors,
  • Pay your bills and file taxes,
  • Make medical or end-of-life decisions, and
  • Make gifts on your behalf.

These powers may be granted broadly to your agent. However, you may also limit these powers if you so choose. For example, if you want to grant your agent only certain powers over your estate, you can sign a special power of attorney. Additionally, a health care power of attorney gives your agent specific authority to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you ever become incapacitated or otherwise unable to describe your own wishes.

When Does a Power of Attorney Become Effective

Generally, a power of attorney is effective at the moment you sign it. This means that your agent gains authority to act on your behalf at that time. Some people are skeptical of the idea that their agent(s) can make decisions on their behalf while they are still able to do so on their own. That is why there is a springing power of attorney. A springing power of attorney goes into effect only when you are mentally incapacitated due to illness or injury.

How to Get a Power of Attorney in Indiana

There are many factors to consider in drafting a power of attorney. Thus, it is always a great idea to first discuss your options with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can help you create the right type of power of attorney that is tailored to your needs.

What Is an Executor?

An executor is a role that comes up in the context of a will. When you prepare a will, you must name an individual to be the “executor” of your estate. An executor is essentially the person you designate to be responsible for settling your bank accounts, selling any investments you may have, managing the distribution of your assets, and wrapping up your other personal affairs after you pass away.

Executor of Estate vs. Power of Attorney: What’s the Difference?

The fundamental difference between a power of attorney and executor is the time at which they are entitled to act. For an executor to have legal authority to act, you must be deceased. An executor’s authority arises only after the testator has passed away.

A power of attorney, on the other hand, may only act on your behalf while you are alive. They will have all of their power revoked upon your death. However, it is important to note that you may select the same person to be both your power of attorney before your death and your executor after you have passed away.

Need More Information on the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and Executor? Contact Our Team Today.

The process may seem scary, but it certainly does not have to be. In fact, it is never too early to start developing your estate plan. For more information on the difference between a power of attorney and executor, how to get a power of attorney in Indiana, or any other estate planning needs, contact Church Church Hittle + Antrim today.

We pride ourselves on providing personalized, targeted, and comprehensive estate plans for each of our clients. Give us a call today at 317-773-2190 to get started on the process of creating your estate plan and giving your future the attention it deserves.