Your agent is the person you name in your power of attorney document. This person will have the power to manage financial or healthcare matters on your behalf. Sometimes a power of attorney document will refer to an attorney-in-fact instead of an agent. These are two different terms for the same position.
A personal representative is the person you name in your will to manage your estate after you die. The personal representative performs several tasks on behalf of your estate, including talking with your heirs, determining the value of your estate, and distributing your estate's assets. A personal representative might also be referred to as an executor. The terms personal representative and executor are interchangeable.
The Dividing Line
The difference between an agent and a personal representative is when an agent and a personal representative can act. Agents have the power to manage financial or healthcare matters when you are alive but are incapacitated or unable to make decisions about your finances or healthcare. Personal representatives act only after your death. Stated differently, death is the dividing line delineating when agents and personal representatives act. Whatever authority and power your agent has ends with your death. Meanwhile, your personal representative has the power to act only after your death.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances is a document that lets you choose the person you want to make financial decisions when you are unable to make those decisions yourself. That person is called your Agent.
I do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. What happens if I don't make one?
This can get complicated really fast because of how property is categorized in Washington state. Generally, for property that you and your spouse own, your spouse may be able to make decisions regarding that property. For property that only you own it is likely that a conservator will need to be appointed.
Who should I appoint to be my Agent?
A Financial Agent can be a friend or relative you trust to make important decisions. This individual needs to be over 18 years of age. To select an appropriate Financial Agent, review the person's strengths and weaknesses when handling money and assets. You can also appoint a professional fiduciary as an Agent.
What kinds of decisions can my Agent make?
Your Financial Agent makes decisions regarding your finances and property.
Can I change my mind about having a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances?
You can revoke your Durable Power of Attorney for Finances document at any time. However, revocation is subject to specific notice requirements.
Ruth A. Harper
I'm a Pacific Northwest attorney, and my focus is on estate planning and elder law. My interest in these fields grew out of my experience with aging relatives and family members with special needs.
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