Can a Person Give or Turn Over Her Power of Attorney to Someone Else?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Can a Person Give or Turn Over Her Power of Attorney to Someone Else?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A person who has granted someone power of attorney can freely revoke that authority or give it to someone else at any point. A power of attorney is not a contract, and thus the principal—or the person making the document—can unilaterally terminate or turn over her power of attorney to another person anytime she wishes. Granting someone power of attorney does not take away the principal's right to make decisions for herself.

Couple reviewing documents with an attorney

Power of Attorney Overview

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person the authority to legally act on behalf of another person in a specified or general manner. The person being granted this authority is known as the "agent" or "attorney in fact"—though there is no requirement that they actually are an attorney. The agent can be an individual or an organization, and the principal can have multiple agents.

A power of attorney is most often created for financial, legal, and health matters. The principal can give the agent broader powers to manage these affairs, or tailor the scope of their authority so that they only act on the principal's behalf for a limited purpose. For example, a general power of attorney gives broad powers to the agent to handle things such as conducting business transactions, whereas a specific, or special, power of attorney would give an agent the authority to sell a specific home.

Durable vs. Nondurable and Incompetency

A durable power of attorney remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated or is deemed incompetent. If a person wants to create this type of power of attorney, they must explicitly add language to the document saying so. A court will not just assume that a power of attorney without such language is a durable one. By contrast, a nondurable power of attorney ends as soon as the principal becomes incapacitated.

A principal must be competent to make a power of attorney, and must remain that way in order to revoke or turn over power to someone else. Thus, a person who becomes incompetent without having made a power of attorney can no longer do so. Similarly, a person who becomes incompetent after having made a durable power of attorney cannot revoke it or give it to someone else. However, if either of these two situations ever arises, the principal's family can ask the court to step in and appoint someone to act on her behalf.

Revoking or Turning Over Power of Attorney

If the principal wishes to revoke or turn over her power of attorney to someone else, she must generally do so in writing. Many states require the same formalities be followed when revoking or changing a power of attorney as when creating one. This often includes having it be in writing and signed in front of a notary. Some states also require the principal to notify the previous agent of the revocation.

A potential agent always has the right to decline an offered power of attorney. However, once accepted, the agent cannot just simply pass the duties on to someone else.

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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