Power of Attorney - At Death Do Us Part
A durable power of attorney is a powerful document - and if you don't have one, click here to see why everyone should - but can be revoked. More importantly, there is a point in time in which the power of attorney will be revoked - the death of the principal.
A POA is an important part of estate planning because it plans for the principal's incapacity, something a will cannot do. However, an agent has no power after the principal dies, and the POA is no longer effective. If this seems odd, think of it this way - a personal representative or executor is appointed to administer the estate of the principal after their death. An agent under a POA may, but need not necessarily be, the executor of the principal's estate. If they are not, there would be a clear power struggle between the agent and executor if the agent still could act on behalf of the principal. Even if the agent and executor are the same individual, that person still must "change hats", as their responsibilities as executor differ from those they held as agent.
Therefore, agents should not be relied on to administer any aspect of the principal's estate or have any access to the principal's finances after death. If immediate access to funds is important after death, solutions are available (such as bank accounts held as JTWROS or TOD). As always, consulting an attorney about these options is advised.