How Long Is a Power of Attorney Valid?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How Long Is a Power of Attorney Valid?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Giving a trusted family member, friend, or professional organization power of attorney means you authorize that person or company to transact business on your behalf. You can grant this right for a limited time or you can create a durable legal document intended to last your entire lifetime.

Two women looking at paperwork together

There are many reasons you might consider creating a power of attorney, or POA. One of the most common reasons is in the context of estate planning, so someone else has the authority to handle things for you without going to court if you become incapacitated or are incompetent.

Durable vs. Nondurable Power of Attorney

When you make a durable POA, it means the person you named, called the agent, has authority to act even if you are incapacitated or incompetent. If you create a power of attorney for estate planning purposes, consider making it durable. This limits the likelihood your agent will need to go to court to establish a conservatorship over your affairs if your health changes for the worse in the future.

In contrast, if you want to make a POA for a limited purpose unrelated to your own estate planning or if you do not want your agent to have authority during periods of lifetime incapacity, you may want a power of attorney that is not durable. Unless the document is durable or has another defined expiration date, it ends when you become incapacitated.

Expiration Date Options

You can specify an expiration date on a power of attorney. Consider choosing this option when creating one for a limited purpose. For example, if you need someone to handle a real estate closing for you when you will be unavailable, you could create a limited POA for that purpose, which means it would end upon the completion of that purpose. In this situation, you can also specify an end date shortly after the closing date.

When people create POAs for estate planning, it generally does not make sense to use an expiration date. When you do not specify an expiration date on a durable power of attorney, it is valid until your death, unless revoked sooner.

Revoking Power of Attorney

Unless you lack the mental capacity to do so, you can revoke a power of attorney that you created at any time. If you have changed your mind and want to revoke an existing one, check your state's laws to determine the correct process to do so.

In many states, you must provide written notice of revocation to the previously-named agent and to any financial institutions or other organizations where the agent could have acted on your behalf. A POA is automatically revoked with respect to your spouse if either of you files for divorce in many states as well. This means you do not need to create a written revocation document or provide formal notice of revocation to your former spouse.

No Qualified Agent

Finally, you do not have a valid power of attorney if the person you named as your agent dies, becomes incapacitated, or is otherwise unable or unwilling to act on your behalf. For this reason, it is helpful to name one or more successors who are willing and able to serve.

Powers of attorney vary by need. An estate planning attorney may be able to help you identify what your needs are and guide you through the process of creating a POA that is valid in your state.

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.