Can a Person With Power of Attorney Change a Will?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Can a Person With Power of Attorney Change a Will?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

A person with power of attorney (POA) cannot change a will. However, someone with this has broad authority outside of will revisions. This type of legal document gives an agent, or attorney-in-fact, the ability to act on behalf of the grantor, also known as the principal. Under a POA, the agent can have limited authority, such as paying bills on someone else's behalf, or broad powers, such as managing all finances or medical care of someone. For a last will and testament, only the person drafting the document can make changes.

Document labeled "Power of Attorney"

Types of Authority

Two types of powers exist: medical and financial. A medical or healthcare POA gives a person the authority to make health decisions on behalf of the principal if that person becomes incapacitated. A financial document allows the attorney-in-fact to make such decisions if the principal become incapacitated.

Either type can be broad or limited, giving the agent a variety of powers. For example, they can access bank accounts or pay bills, invest money, and pay all taxes on their behalf. The facts and circumstances of the grantor's incapacity govern the powers.

As stated above, the authority can be broad or narrow. For healthcare POAs, an agent may decide what medical care the principal receives, including hospital, pharmaceutical, or home health care. Additionally, they can determine which doctors the grantor sees, what diet they eat, and where they live. Many states have standard forms for this type of healthcare documentation.

With financial powers, they can pay taxes or make investment decisions. Additionally, they can manage the principal's property and other assets or apply for Medicare. The scope is often based on the relationship between the parties as well as the grantor's abilities.

Limitations on Authority

State laws govern powers of attorney. States may have varying requirements or limitations. Generally though, if the document doesn't contain any restrictions, then the law views the powers broadly. Despite a broad reading, there are specific limitations. For example, an agent cannot change the terms or interpretation of a will. Only the person drafting it can do so.

Most states have adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA), which was created in 2006. It includes what language can and cannot be included in such documentation, making them uniform across specific states. For example, the UPOAA states that POAs are valid as soon as they're signed. Additionally, the Act says that authority ends upon the death of the principal. If you live in a state that follows this, then any other state that also follows it will accept and acknowledge it. You should check your state's laws to see if you live in one of these states.

If you need to draft a POA or have been asked to serve as an agent, you should review your local state laws to determine what's included in the document or what actions you may take. Understand that, as a grantor, you can give wide-ranging authority to someone else. Just ensure that they are ready and willing to take on the responsibility.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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