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My mom passed away and I was her Power of Attorney. Can I keep paying her bills from her account?

No. Power of Attorney documents are used to advocate for and assist someone while alive. There are several different types of Powers of Attorney, but they all automatically terminate upon the death of the Principal (i.e. mom).

Once a person passes away, the Agent (person named under the POA) absolutely should not be writing checks or paying bills from the accounts as POA.

I often hear clients tell me they wrote checks or paid bills after death as POA because the funeral bill or another immediate expense had to be paid and they couldn't wait until after probate. While the slight delay can be frustrating, this is not allowed.

So, how do bills get paid? The most common ways are as follows:

1. The named executor in the Will (or potential Administrator if there is no Will) advances the costs of the bills until after he or she is appointed by the Register of Wills and is able to legally access the accounts again.

2. All or some of the next-of-kin collectively contribute funds to cover the funeral expenses and immediate expenses to later be reimbursed.

3. Life insurance proceeds paid out the named beneficiaries on the policy are used. This is typically because it was understood that the policy was earmarked by their loved one for funeral and immediate expenses.

4. Funds from existing joint accounts are used as the surviving account holder has access to and a right to use the remaining funds in the account.

In each of these scenarios the person(s) advancing the funds is typically reimbursed once the estate account is funded.

Quick tip: Be careful not to start paying additional bills before consulting with an estate attorney. In the case of insolvent or nearly insolvent estates, some bills may not need to be paid.


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