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Monday, January 3, 2011

When attorney under PofA becomes a co-executor

Recently a reader asked me a question that I think would be of interest to many of you, so I'm posting it, and my reply, here:

Q: "My father passed away recently and I am one of three executors in his will. However, a few weeks prior to his death, I became the attorney (is this now called trustee?)when my father's enduring power of attorney was put into effect due to mental incapacity. I realize the EPOA ceases to exist upon death, however, I am wondering if I have "special" responsibilities because of the "attorney role"? "

A: "I'm sorry to hear about your dad. The three executors have equal responsibility and decision-making duties, but you are right that you are in a slightly different situation because you acted as attorney. An attorney's responsibility to the executors is to account for what he did while he was the attorney. So in your case, you must show your fellow executors the bank statements etc that show what you did. There doesn't necessarily have to be a formal set of financial reporting documents if you only acted for a few weeks and basically kept things running as your dad had run them. If you made any purchases with your dad's money or changed any banking arrangements, you have to show this to the other executors.

Other than the reporting requirement, there really isn't any other difference between the roles of the three executors.

As for the question about the wording - a trustee is anyone who is looking after money or property for someone else, so both executors and attorneys are types of trustees. Attorneys are sort of a blend of agents and trustees, but because they look after someone elses's money when there is incapacity, they are considered trustees. However, you're correct to refer to yourself (before your dad's passing) as an attorney because that specifically identifies you as someone acting under a Power of Attorney, as opposed to someone acting under a will or trust deed.

It sounds like you're on top of things and I hope it goes as smoothly as possible."

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