What rights does a POA have regarding an estate?

UPDATED: Jan 6, 2012

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What rights does a POA have regarding an estate?

My grandmother has passed away. Her children and her husband are deceased. My cousin and I are her heirs. However, she did not leave a Will but did apparently appoint a power of attorney in her last days as a very sick woman. I have no idea what my rights are as the oldest living heir, or if I have any at all. The POA is not someone I know personally and I am afraid that she has the power to leave us with nothing. Does she? Is she able to take the house, the car, the money, the trusts?

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Estate Planning, Oklahoma


Janet Brewer / Law Office of Janet L Brewer

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Legally, a power of attorney ends at the moment the person who granted it dies.  If there is a trust, the person who is named as the "trustee" of the trust is the one who has the right to manage the assets.  In certain circumstances the right to manage the assets can include the right to sell them.  However, the trustee is required by law to "account" to the beneficiaries for all of the expenses incurred.

If a person who was named POA or a person who was named trustee "takes" the assets (assuming that that person was not named as the beneficiary for them), s/he can be held liable for the crime of embezzlement.

If your grandmother's assets were not held in the name of a trust, then they will need to be "probated" - if there is no will, then you would have the right to begin the probate proceeding by petitioning the court to be appointed as your grandmother's executor (technically, if there wasn't a will, you would be called an "administrator").  If you have cousins or siblings, any one of them could also petition the court to be appointed, so if you want the job, it would be in your best interests to see an attorney and submit the petition to the court soon.


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