Power of Attorney a Permanent Decision?
Signing legal documents

Power of Attorney a Permanent Decision?

The position of POA can be revoked.

It would be wise for everyone to have thought things through carefully and chosen a Power of Attorney (POA). It is important to remember that the decision can be changed in the future, according to nwi.com in “Estate Planning: Revoking a power of attorney.”

One aspect of a Power of Attorney to carefully consider is, when does the authority granted in the document come into existence. A Power of Attorney can be an immediate document, which grants the full powers NOW. It can be a “Springing Power”, meaning that the authority comes into existence during events spelled out in the document, such as two doctors certifying incapacity.

One the Power is in place, the terms of the document control what the authority is: you can give limited powers, full powers, or something in between. The person in charge does not own the assets, but is managing them as a “Fiduciary” which means as a highly trusted person, bring with it the responsibility of high loyalty to the person granting the power.

When and how does the power end?

There are three basic ways that a Power of Attorney can be terminated and the first is the date and time that it specifies, if it contains such language. POAs rarely have termination dates, because they are intended to be “durable” over an extended period of time. However, in certain circumstances, they can have a termination date.

The second way a POA terminates, is at the death of the principal. Once the person in the POA dies, the attorney-in-fact authority ends, with the possible exceptions of making anatomical gifts on behalf of the principal, or the authority to make final arrangements or the authority to request an autopsy. Except for these unusual exceptions, the POA ends when the principal dies.

The third way a POA terminates is when the principal executes a written revocation identifying the POA. For it to be effective, the attorney-in-fact has to receive actual knowledge of the revocation. Until they receive that actual knowledge, the POA revocation is not effective.

To ensure that this is done properly, it is recommended that an estate planning attorney be involved, just to make sure there are no mistakes. A letter informing the POA of the revocation must be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, using U.S. first-class mail. An email and a text follow up could take place, and a phone call would be a good idea.

To make sure there are no deliberate misunderstandings, send a copy of the revocation to financial institutions that would be potentially targeted by the now former POA—if that is a concern. This includes the bank, financial advisor or any institution that is of particular concern. You want to make sure that these institutions are notified that the POA is no longer in effect.

If the person refuses to sign the certified letter, you will need to prove that notice was given and that the person refused to sign for it. Refusing mail is not a persuasive argument to prove lack of notice.

Once the person has been notified of the revocation, it is a violation of law to exercise any authority under it, and the person has liability, if they do so.

An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.

Reference: nwi.com (Dec. 9, 2018) “Estate Planning: Revoking a power of attorney”

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