What is the difference between an Executor and an Attorney?

Many people mistakenly believe that if they have bestowed someone with the Power of Attorney, the same person will also act as Executor of their Will once they pass away, or vice versa. It is crucial to understand that the role of being Attorney and being Executor, work in different time frames and are not the same role.

                                        What is an Executor of a Will?

A Will is a legal document that provides instructions for an appointed person on how you wish for your estate to be distributed after your passing. A Will maker will appoint a person to administer their estate, this person is known as an Executor. An Executor has many responsibilities. Executors’ responsibilities include:


  • Making funeral arrangements;
  • Applying for Probate;
  • Administering the Assets;
  • Pay any remaining liabilities;
  • Managing tax affairs; and
  • Distributing the assets.

What is an Attorney for a Powers of Attorney?

There is a misconception that a person’s spouse can make financial or medical decisions on their behalf and manage their assets in the case that they become mentally or physically incapable. However, this is not necessarily the case. Unless a Power of Attorney document has been created and you have appointed your spouse as attorney, they may not necessarily be able to make decisions on your behalf.

A Power of Attorney lets you nominate a person that you think will make decisions based on what they think you would do and what is best for you. It is a legal document that will allow you to appoint a person to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so. This legal document comes in handy if you were to fall ill or experience an accident that makes you incapable of making choices for yourself. Attorneys’ responsibilities include:

  • Consulting from time to time with supportive family members and friends;
  • Making financial or medical decisions on behalf of the principle;
  • Keeping accounts of all transactions; and
  • Managing the persons financial assets, investments, real estate, bank accounts etc

How do these roles differ from each other?

The main difference between an Executor and an Attorney is when the roles take effect. In situation when you are alive but mentally or physically incapable, a Power of Attorney is in effect. Meanwhile, an Executor will only take responsibilities upon your passing, after you have died.

A Will and a Power of Attorney are totally separate documents and the appointment in one to manage your affairs and assets does not mean that person can act as the other,

If you require our assistance in preparing a Power of Attorney or a Will, please contact us on (03) 9707 1155. Alternatively, please email us at admin@wslegal.com.au