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  • Writer's pictureKathy L. McNair, Esq.

What is the difference between a Power of Attorney, Executor, and Personal Representative?

An agent acting under a Durable Power of Attorney is appointed to manage financial affairs for another person, while that person is still alive. This person has the authority to pay bills, file taxes, and in some cases even sell real estate and make gifts. The power to act ends when the person executing the document dies.

After death, if there are assets in the name of the decedent alone (not jointly held) that did not name a beneficiary, it is necessary to file a probate petition, in order to gain access to financial accounts. In Massachusetts, once that person is appointed by the court to manage the probate estate, he/she is called the "Personal Representative". Before, adopting the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code in 2012, this person was referred to as the "Executor" or the "Executrix". The bottom line is that they mean the same thing.

The Personal Representative of an estate is responsible for collecting all of the assets held in the decedent's name alone, filing an inventory with the court, paying the decedent's debts, the funeral, taxes, and fees related to the administration of the estate, and then distributing the remaining assets according to the will, or if there was no will, according to the laws of Massachusetts. The Personal Representative must keep detailed records and must be prepared to fully account for all transactions.

When deciding who to appoint to act as either your agent under your Power of Attorney or as the Personal Representative of your estate, you should choose someone who is trustworthy, organized, able to communicate with the other heirs effectively, and efficient. The job is not easy. Some people choose to appoint their attorney to act in this role, if they have experience doing so. If there is any family conflict it is probably best to have a professional serve as the Personal Representative and/or the Power of Attorney of your estate.

If you have questions about Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy) or Probate, please take the next step and call our office at 617-489-5900 or schedule a brief free consultation or by clicking:

Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an Estate Planning and Elder Law firm, serving the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area, since 2001. We are ready to help you with Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, Probate, Guardianship & Conservatorships, Special Needs Trusts, and Fiduciary Services.

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