Do you need a power of attorney if your spouse dies without will?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
Howka asked...

Do you need a power of attorney if your spouse dies without a will? How much control does a spouse have without any legal papers?

Expert Answers

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.

The power of a power of attorney ends when the person for whom it was made dies, so will be of no help in managing affairs, getting access to money and accounts, or transferring property when a spouse dies.

Unless a spouse is a joint tenant to the property, as is often the case on the title to a house or on a bank account, he or she will have no real rights to control the other spouse's property when he or she dies. For that kind of control, you need to look into some basic estate planning arrangements, such as joint tenancy, pay-on-death, living trusts and wills.

For more information, see Estate Planning Basics.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

In doing some research, I found Some great information on what happens when someone dies without a

The practical expert answered...

As stated before, once the person dies, the Power of Attorney ends too. If there is no will, then the State Probate Court will decided who gets what. You should gather all information on all assets and petition the court, as soon as possible after the death. Unless you are jointly names on property or bank accounts, they must wait for a court decision. Life insurance policies will have beneficies names though and those can be processed - can take a couple of months. Make sure you have several copies of the death certificate. Make sure all assets, like house contents and such are safe, list them individually for court, along with everything else. If you can guess value of major items (land, house, car, etc.), this will help speed things along. Take pictures of items and on date taken.