What Kind of Power of Attorney Do I Need Over My Mom So When She Dies I Can Sell the House?

by Roger Thorne J.D. ; Updated July 27, 2017

Powers of attorney do not survive after the person who granted them, called a principal, dies — no powers of attorney survive the death of the principal, and if you want to sell your mother's home after she dies you cannot do so with a power of attorney. Talk to a lawyer in your area if you need legal advice about powers of attorney and the death of a parent.

Power of Attorney

To grant power of attorney, a person, known as a principal, has to be an adult of sound mind. Powers or attorney exist between the principal and the person or organization she allows to act on her behalf, called an agent or attorney-in-fact. The agent can only do what the principal is legally allowed to do, and only if the principal gives the agent that right in the power of attorney document.


When a principal dies, all powers of attorney the principal granted immediately terminate, regardless of the kind of powers granted. For example, if your mother granted you financial power of attorney to sell her house, that power terminates as soon as you learn of your mother's death. Even though your mother may have wanted you to sell her house for her when she was alive, you can no longer do so once she dies.


Once your mother dies, the estate executor is the only person who can redistribute property to new owners. An executor, sometimes called a personal representative, is the person who has control over your mother's estate. Once your mother dies, the probate court in the state in which she lived has to open a probate case and start the probate process. You cannot dispose of your mother's property after she dies unless you have the authority to do so.


What happens to your mother's house after she dies is determined by the probate laws of your state. If, for example, your mother dies and leaves behind a last will and testament that states she wants to sell her home, it is up to the executor to do this. While your mother can appoint you an executor, you are not automatically granted executor status merely because you had power of attorney over your mother when she was alive. Only the probate court can approve and appoint an executor.

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.