If your loved one leaves a power of attorney, does that mean you can skip the probate process and just use that power of attorney to handle the estate? This question comes up in a number of different ways:
- Do you still have to open probate on an estate after a loved one dies–even if they left a power of attorney?
- Does power of attorney end at death?
- My loved one just passed away, I’m their power of attorney, can I skip probate?
We get these questions all the time at our office.
Unfortunately, the answer is a firm no. You cannot skip the probate process just because you have a power of attorney. Most of the time in probate law there’s not a lot of clear cut “yes or no” answers, but this is one of them.
The reason why this is so clear-cut is because power of attorney is a document that has some very specific purposes.
Does Power Of Attorney End At Death?
A power of attorney allows an individual to manage the financial affairs of another person while that person is still alive.
Under Georgia law, when the person passes away, the financial power of attorney immediately ends. When the person passes away, the will of the deceased or Georgia law for intestacy (which is a situation where there is no will) would then take over.
In order to properly settle the estate, an estate would need to be opened by the probate court and the power of attorney is not going to have any effect on that at all.
An Important Note On Acting As Power Of Attorney After Death
We see people who incorrectly assume that having power of attorney means that they can start moving money around or make decisions on behalf of the estate after a loved one passes.
That’s not true, and it turns out that it is a big mistake that can land you in trouble. If you do have a power of attorney, don’t go moving money around or use the money of the deceased in any way because that can cause problems later. We represent families to pursue someone who had engaged in those type of transactions improperly and harmed the estate.
Power of attorney does not mean that you can skip necessary legal processes like opening the estate for probate.When the person you’re acting as power of attorney for passes away, the power of attorney immediately ends, and the probate process must begin. For a great overview of the three parts of the probate process, see this article.
If you would like help with your own situation, please feel free to give our office a call at (770) 920-6030.