The Difference Between Power of Attorney and Personal Representative

millman law group power of attorney personal representative

Learn more about the differences between power of attorney and a personal representative.

Understanding “who’s who” in estate planning can help you make the best decisions for your future. At The Millman Law Group, we will help you understand the differences between crucial roles like power of attorney and personal representative. If you confuse these roles, your estate and beneficiaries may encounter serious roadblocks. So, what are these two powerful roles? Keep reading to learn the key attributes of each. 

What Is Power of Attorney? 

Power of attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Power of attorney can come in two forms: 

  • Financial Power of Attorney: A person is granted the ability to handle money matters for you, like paying bills, filing taxes, and managing bank accounts. 
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: Also known as a healthcare proxy, this document authorizes an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf. 

Powers of attorney can go into effect immediately after signing or only when you become incapacitated. 

What is a Personal Representative? 

A personal representative, or executor, is someone named in your will to fulfill your wishes after you pass away. They are responsible for navigating the probate process and settling your estate by doing many tasks, including: 

  • Filing the will with probate court
  • Using estate assets to pay outstanding debts
  • Distributing remaining estate property to beneficiaries 

Personal representatives are often someone close to you, like a spouse, adult child, or close friend, but you may also choose a professional fiduciary. 

The Key Differences Between These Roles


A power of attorney names someone to act on your behalf while you’re incapacitated but still alive. A personal representative only assumes their duties after your death. 


Under power of attorney, your chosen agent can make healthcare and financial choices by following your guidelines. A personal representative cannot make discretionary decisions but is only tasked with carrying out administrative estate tasks. 

Court Involvement

A well-drafted power of attorney enables you to avoid court intervention in your affairs if incapacitated. A personal representative must go through the probate process in court. 


A power of attorney is legally acting on behalf of a living person, and this is who they are serving. A personal representative represents the deceased person but owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries. 

Can the Same Person Serve Both Roles? 

The same person may be both the personal representative and have power of attorney, although it is not required. When naming the same person to both roles, remember the following: 

  • It’s common to name your spouse or adult child as both to consolidate primary responsibilities with someone you trust. 
  • Appointing one person creates continuity between handling your affairs before and after death. 
  • The person should always be highly trusted and capable since they will have broad authority over your finances, healthcare, and estate. 
  • Separate documents are needed outlining each role’s specific duties and powers. 
  • Consider naming an alternate or successor in case your first choice cannot serve either position. 

Your estate planning attorney at The Millman Law Group can advise on whether consolidating roles makes sense for your situation. 

Estate Planning Made Easy With Millman Law Group

Millman Law Group, PLLC is rare because it’s one of the only law firms that offer life planning in South Florida. From life care planning to the preparation of detailed estate plans, Millman Law Group has committed to serving Floridian elderly communities in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Ocean Ridge, Hillsboro Beach, and many other areas since 2018. Our dedicated team also specializes in special needs Trusts and catering to any age demographic because we know for certain it’s never too early to start preparing you and your family for your future. For the latest news in estate planning and elder care law, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Pinterest. You can also contact us at 561-463-6480.