When Does a Power of Attorney Expire?

By Larissa Bodniowycz

When Does a Power of Attorney Expire?

By Larissa Bodniowycz

A power of attorney is a legally binding document that grants someone, called the agent, authority to act on behalf of another, called the principal. An agent can manage the principal's financial, medical, or other property matters without first having to get court approval. A power of attorney may expire or terminate for a variety of reasons.

Death of or Termination by the Principal

A power of attorney expires when the principal dies. The agent's duties and responsibilities automatically cease at the time of death. If the deceased principal has a will or testamentary trust, her affairs will be wrapped up in accordance with its terms. If she did not leave any estate planning documents, she is said to have died "intestate" and the estate will be handled according to state-specific intestacy laws.

There are several reasons a principal might want to terminate a power of attorney, such as if her relationship with the agent has changed, the principal no longer trusts the agent, or if the agent has moved far away and it is no longer practical for the agent to manage the principal's affairs.

As long as the principal is mentally competent, she can terminate a power of attorney at any time, which requires signing and giving a revocation to the agent. No state requires the principal to give a reason for the revocation.

The principal may want someone else to serve as power of attorney. In this case, the principal must first revoke the current agent, then execute a new document.

Resignation of the Agent or Expiration by Agreement

If an agent no longer wants to perform their duties under a power of attorney, they can resign by giving written notice to the principal. In most cases, the resignation of an agent does not end the power of attorney. Instead, the person named as successor agent takes over. If a successor agent is not named, it ends because there are no agents to carry it out.

A principal can also put an expiration date on the document. The conditions of expiration can include an exact date or state that a certain event must happen for it to end. This is generally done if the document is only intended to be temporary. For example, a college student attending an international study abroad program may grant his parents power of attorney to handle his affairs for the time he is gone. That student would state that his parent's power of attorney will expire on his return.

Expiration of a Medical Power of Attorney

In some states, an agent can appoint a health care power of attorney to handle medical and health care decisions for the principal if the principal is physically or mentally incapacitated. This type of document may expire if the principal recovers and regains the ability to make his or her own medical decisions. Unless it's a durable power of attorney, the agent's legal ability to make decisions ends when the principal becomes incapacitated.

If you don't have a power of attorney to protect you in case you are unable to make financial and health care decisions for yourself, the assistance of an attorney can help you create one in accordance with your state's laws.

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