I am I responsible for another’s debts if I am legal power of attorney? The person is deceased and a skilled nursing facil. is trying to get us to pay

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I am I responsible for another’s debts if I am legal power of attorney? The person is deceased and a skilled nursing facil. is trying to get us to pay

Asked on June 29, 2009 under Estate Planning, New Mexico

Answers:

S.J.H., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Normally a power of attorney terminates upon the death of the person giving the power. So upon your friend's death, you are no longer empowered to act as his power of attorney. It now becomes an issue as to whether or not he had a will. If he did then the executor is in charge of the estate and responsible for dealing with the estate's death. If there was no will then someone has to be named the administrator of the state and deal with creditors. The debt is the debt of the estate not the executor's or administrator's personal debt. Unless you guaranteed the personal debts of the decedent you should be okay. If you are not the executor of the will or an administrator, I would not even deal with them because you have no legal right to do so.  

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Ordinarily, no, you can't be held liable for someone else's debts, just because you had his power of attorney.  However, if you had anything to do with the deceased person's dealings with the nursing facility, I think it would be worth having the unique facts of your case reviewed by an attorney.  He or she can give you reliable advice, and might also be able to get these people off your back.

Holding a power of attorney makes you an agent for another person.  When you use that power, you act for that person and not for yourself.  In most cases, as long as you respect that difference, so will the law.


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