Power of Attorney: What Happens Upon Death?

Posted on October 4, 2023 by Serenity Funeral Home of Southern Utah under Death, Dying, Power of Attorney

Many people assume that whomever had power of attorney during life will continue to have the legal authority to make decisions following death.  This assumption is incorrect the majority of the time.  A power of attorney is simply a document granting another person permission to act on their behalf during their life.  Power of attorney does not remain in force after death and technically dies with the person.  In other words, when the individual passes away, the document becomes null and void.

However, a person can, and should, legally document their final wishes in advance with a funeral home.  If advance directions are set forth, the funeral home will proceed with the deceased’s wishes.  Otherwise, the funeral director is responsible to adhere to a specific next-of-kin hierarchy set forth by Utah State Code.  

 The hierarchy is as follows:

1.) A person designated in a written instrument (a will or trust).  This written instrument must contain specific information and be witnessed by two unrelated individuals.  This does not include individuals granted power of attorney, because, as stated above, power of attorney ceases upon death.

2.) The surviving legally recognized spouse.  

3.) The sole surviving child, or the majority of multiple children.

4.) The surviving parents, each of whom have equal rights.

5.) The majority of surviving siblings.

6.) The next degree of kinship in descending order, which includes grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.

7.) A public official charged with arranging for disposition.

8.) Any other person(s) willing to assume responsibility.

We’re here to help you legally authorize and pre-plan your final wishes.  Please stop by our office at 1316 S. 400 E., Ste. A5 in St. George to receive your copy of a free Funeral or Cremation Planning Guide.  Call us at (435) 986-9100.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @SerenityFuneralSTG.

Submitted by W. Russell Atkin, Licensed Funeral Director/Owner, Serenity Funeral Home of Southern Utah

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