A comprehensive estate plan includes a lot of documents and many trusted helpers; so, its important for both you and your helpers to understand whos in charge, when.
Heres a brief outline, but if you have questions or concerns about your individual estate plan, be sure to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Power of Attorney Agent
Your power of attorney agent is in charge when the authorizing document (i.e. the power of attorney) indicates he or she is in charge.
For example, health care power of attorney agents are only authorized to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot provide informed medical consent because you are too ill.
A financial power of attorney likely grants authority to act immediately, but the document may be drafted to only grant authority upon disability or some other event. This is called a springing power of attorney.
All authority under any power of attorney ends at your death. Your agents must STOP using the power of attorney as soon as you die.
An executor is appointed in your will and has authority to act after your death when sanctioned by the court. Executor authority ends when the estate is closed.
A trustee may act when authorized by the trust document. Some trusted helpers have authority immediately (but this is unusual, except for the elderly or disabled); other trustees dont have authority until you are disabled or have died.
Please continue reading at part 2 of this article: Your Estate Plan, Whos in Charge When.