What is the difference between an Executor and a Power of Attorney?

Because Executors and Power of Attorneys have many of the same roles and responsibilities, it is easy to confuse the two.  The main difference between these two roles is that an Executor’s legal authority starts after your death where a Power of Attorney only has legal authority during your lifetime.

In your Will, you name a person to act as Executor.  The Executor manages and administers your estate, paying income taxes, legal debts and ultimately giving out the gifts in your Will.  Your Will has no legal force until your death and your Executor has no legal power to deal with your estate until your death.

In your Power of Attorney, you name a person to act on your behalf during your lifetime.  A Power of Attorney may make decisions about where you live and have the authority to make important decisions about your assets.  A Power of Attorney’s authority stops at the time of your death and your Will takes over.

Although people often choose the same person to be their Executor and Power of Attorney, it is important to understand the difference between the two roles for proper estate planning.