What Are the Differences Between a Will and a Power of Attorney?


Quick Answer

Under U.S. law, a will directs a court on how the testator's estate should be handled after death, while power of attorney refers to how decisions should be made while the principal is still living. An individual with power of attorney cannot manage the grantor's estate after death, explains USA.gov.

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Full Answer

Power of attorney is a document that gives the grantee the authority to act in place of the grantor in situations where the grantor becomes medically incapacitated or unable to make major decisions, according to Nolo. Power of attorney is normally split into two documents covering medical and financial issues. Medical power of attorney gives the agent authority to decide how medical care should be administered. Financial power of attorney gives the agent authority to make financial decisions such as dealing with taxes and investments or depositing Social Security checks.

A will is a separate legal document that lists how the testator wishes for his estate to be handled after death. A will must name an executor, and this person is responsible for managing assets, paying taxes and settling debts owed by the testator, notes USA.gov. The executor is required to act in the interests of the testator as provided for in the will.

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