The term "attorney-in-fact" refers to a person who has been granted legal authority to act on behalf of another person and make any and all decisions for them if they are unable to do so themselves.
The attorney-in-fact designation is made through a legal document called a Power of Attorney and gives this person specific powers and responsibilities outlined in the document, typically covering financial, legal, and healthcare matters.
They are legally obligated to act in the Best Interests of the person for whom they are supporting, known as the Principal, and must follow the principal's wishes as stated in the power of attorney document.
After the death of the principal, these responsibilities and decisions are usually transferred to other designated individuals, such as an Executor, Administrator, or Trustee, depending on the structure of the Estate Plan the principal had created prior to their death.
Here's how the term "attorney-in-fact" relates to different aspects of death:
Financial Matters: If the deceased person had appointed an attorney-in-fact using a Financial Power of Attorney, this individual would have had the legal authority to manage the principal's financial affairs during their lifetime. However, this authority generally terminates upon the principal's death.
Healthcare Decisions: Some powers of attorney include provisions for healthcare decisions, allowing the attorney-in-fact to make medical choices for the principal if they become incapacitated. Once the principal passes away, the authority of the attorney-in-fact to make healthcare decisions also ends.
Estate Planning: If the deceased person had designated an attorney-in-fact to handle specific estate planning matters, such as signing legal documents on their behalf, this authority would not extend beyond the principal's death. After the principal's passing, an executor or Personal Representative named in their Last Will and Testament would be responsible to Administer the Estate and its associated responsibilities.
Trust Management: In cases where the principal had established a Living Trust and appointed an attorney-in-fact as a trustee, the attorney-in-fact's authority would be limited to managing the trust during the principal's lifetime. After the principal's death, the trust's Successor Trustee would assume responsibility.
A power of attorney (POA) document is often be written by an Estate Attorney to ensure compliance with local laws and address specific needs.