How do you obtain Financial Power of Attorney after someone dies?

A fellow caregiver asked...

How do you obtain Financial Power of Attorney after someone dies?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You cannot obtain power of attorney for someone after death. A power of attorney only enables the agent named to manage a person's finances during life"”and that responsibility ends when the person dies.

If the issue is that you need to take care of paying final debts and taxes and such, and the deceased person left a will in which an executor was named, then the executor becomes responsible for that.

If the deceased person left no will, then a person"”usually the closest relative but sometimes a trusted friend"”can ask the nearest probate court for permission to act to wind up the deceased person's financial affairs. Most courts have fairly straightforward procedures for this, so you shouldn't need to hire an attorney for help.

Once satisfied that the interested person is on the up and up, the court will allow him or her to act as administrator of the deceased person's estate, usually after issuing "letters of administration" or something with a similar name, which will be recognized by local financial institutions.

This is particularly easy if the person owned assets worth $100,000 or less, which qualifies as a "small estate" according to most state laws.

Contact the local probate court and ask for information on "small estates" or "simplified estate procedures."