A power of attorney is a legal paper that allows one person to act on behalf of another person. The recipient of the authority, called an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact," can perform tasks in place of the giver of the authority, called the "principal." The end of the agent's authority depends on the type of power of attorney used and the actions of the principal.
A power of attorney contains the names and addresses of the principal and the agent. The agent's powers depend on the principal's wishes but are spelled out in the document. The principal places his initials next to the powers he's granting or next to the powers he doesn't want to give -- and he might have to write powers in -- depending on the form type and given instructions. A principal must sign and date the power of attorney in front of a notary in most cases. A general power of attorney gives the agent a wide variety of powers, while a limited power of attorney restricts the agent's actions. Although a limited power of attorney doesn't expire on a particular date, it can't be used for anything else other than what is stated on the document.
One way a power of attorney ends is when the principal revokes it by completing a revocation paper. This notice is usually sent to the agent and other parties that have the power of attorney on record. The notice tells the agent the principal is revoking, on a specific date, the authority she granted. Once the date is reached, the powers expire, and the agent can't act for her in any further matters.
Death and Incapacitation Clauses
The purpose of a power of attorney is to give the agent the authority to act on an agent's behalf while she is still living. Therefore, all powers of attorney, no matter what the type, automatically expire when the agent is made aware of the principal's death. Generally, a power of attorney must be granted when the principal is mentally competent and expires when the principal becomes incapacitated. However, a durable power of attorney will continue in effect when the principal is incapacitated, and a "springing power" does not go into effect until the principal becomes incapacitated. In some states, powers of attorney are assumed to be durable unless they state otherwise.
The principal can insert an expiration date on any type of power of attorney. Wording varies by state, but the clause commonly states the agent's authority ends on a particular month, date and year, and sometimes includes a specific time. For example, a principal can write that the agent's authority ends at midnight on a specific date. The agent no longer has the right to act for the principal once the expiration date is reached.
Medical Power of Attorney
Some states, such as North Carolina and California, have special medical powers of attorney. This type of power of attorney is for medical decisions and only becomes effective when a physician certifies the principal can no longer make decisions about his own health care. A medical power of attorney usually ends when the principal dies or if he regains the ability to make his own medical decisions. If the principal gave the medical agent authority to dispose of remains or donate body parts, the powers continue until these tasks are completed.