The Meaning of a Power of Attorney vs. an Administrator of an Estate

by Roger Thorne J.D.; Updated September 26, 2017
A court has to appoint an estate administrator.

A power of attorney is a widely used legal document that can serve a number of purposes, while an estate administrator is a person who serves one single specific purpose. The laws governing power of attorney and estate administrators are governed by each state, so talk to a lawyer if you need legal advice or help with a legal issue.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney gets created when a person, called a principal, wants to give someone else, called an agent or attorney-in-fact, the ability to make decisions on his behalf. The principal does this by creating a power of attorney document that lists what powers the agent receives. These documents must be made in accordance with the laws of the state in which they are made, and do not have to be registered with the state or approved by a court.

Estate Administrator

An estate administrator, alternately known as a personal representative or executor, is a person or organization that is responsible for settling an estate. An estate is all the property, assets and debts that a person leaves behind after death. That property has to be given out to new owners, known as settling, which is where the administrator comes in. It is up to the administrator to oversee the redistribution of estate property. A person can nominate an administrator in his last will and testament, but the probate court must appoint the person before he becomes the administrator of the estate.

Court Requirements

A power of attorney creates an agent-principal relationship. The agent gets appointed by the principal at will. If the power of attorney does not meet state requirements, however, a court can rule it invalid and take away the agent's powers. An estate executor, on the other hand, represents the estate. Because the person who nominated the administrator, known as the decedent, is dead, only a court can appoint or remove the administrator from his position.

Time Frame

A principal can create or revoke a power of attorney at any time as long as he remains of sound mind. The agent's powers also terminate as soon as the principal dies, or as soon as the principal becomes incapacitated. However, if durable power of attorney is granted, the agent retains his powers even during any period of the principal's incapacity. A person can also nominate an estate administrator through his last will and testament, which can always be changed as long as the person remains of sound mind. The last will and testament's terms only take effect upon the person's death.

About the Author

Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.

Photo Credits

  • Legal Law Justice image by Stacey Alexander from Fotolia.com