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Can a durable power of attorney affect the probate process?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate

Some people create very thorough estate plans to protect themselves and their loved ones regardless of what transpires in life. An estate plan could potentially include a combination of testamentary documents that take effect after someone dies and living documents that have authority during times of personal emergency.

Powers of attorney are common inclusions in modern Michigan estate plans, as they give people an opportunity to name someone they trust to pay their bills, manage their investments and oversee their medical care. Durable powers of attorney differ from standard powers of attorney because they retain their authority longer.

Could they have any impact on the estate administration process in Michigan?

Powers of attorney do not conflict with wills

Despite what people sometimes assume, durable powers of attorney do not conflict with testamentary documents like wills or trusts. As a general rule, durable powers of attorney continue to have legal authority even in times of permanent incapacitation. When standard powers of attorney might lose their legal power, durable documents remain in effect in most cases.

However, there are two other scenarios in which powers of attorney lose their authority. The first is when someone’s condition improves and they regain testamentary capacity. That limitation also applies to durable powers of attorney.

All forms of power of attorney lose their effectiveness when the principal granting that authority to others dies. At that point, only testamentary documents have any effect. Of course, the person empowered in durable power of attorney documents may sometimes resent needing to give up their authority and may attempt to continue conducting financial transactions, possibly for personal benefit.

It is, therefore, crucial for those empowered by testamentary documents to act swiftly to secure resources and notify financial institutions about the passing of the testator. Occasionally, those representing an estate may need to take legal action if an agent or attorney-in-fact abused their authority before or even after a testator’s passing. For the most part, durable powers of attorney have minimal impact on probate proceedings as these documents lose authority when someone dies.

Learning more about the impact that powers of attorney may have on the probate process is important for those who expect to assist with estate administration or to benefit from an estate. As such, those familiar with Michigan law and common documents can place themselves in a better place to protect the legacy of a loved one.