Choosing a power of attorney is an important decision. Essentially, by making this choice you are naming the person who will make critical decisions about your physical and financial welfare should you be unable to make those decisions on your own due to accident, injury, or impairment. Depending on the terms specified in the POA agreement, the designated person—your agent—may have limited or broad authority over many aspects of your life, including healthcare, property, and finances.
But what happens when you’ve appointed this agent to act on your behalf, but later wish to remove or revoke the power of attorney, either because you’ve lost trust in the person’s ability to handle your affairs and carry out your wishes, or you’ve simply chosen someone else to fill the role? How do you remove a power of attorney?
Preparing a Notice of Revocation
Some people believe you can revoke a designated power of attorney simply by destroying all copies of the original documents naming that person as an agent with POA. However, all-too-often extra copies—sometimes held by the original agent themself—later show up and cause legal problems when more than one person believes they hold power of attorney over your decisions. Instead of taking this chance, it’s best to prepare an official notice of revocation of POA. This makes the decision legal and binding as long as you have the mental capacity to understand your decisions and consequences and are not under duress.
To prepare a notice of revocation, there are typically three options:
- Use the paperwork for revocation often included in the original documents you used to sign power of attorney to the original agent to name a new one and sign and notarize the document
- Download a POA revocation document and fill it out to indicate the change and sign and notarize the document.
- Contact your attorney to have a revocation of POA prepared and signed and then prepare a document naming your new choice
The printable document may seem like the simplest choice, but it’s always best to have your attorney assist you with these critical documents so they cannot be later contested. For instance, an attorney can legitimize the documents so no one is able to later claim they were forged or signed under duress. Revocation documents may differ from state to state, so by using an attorney to draft your document you can be certain that it stands up to any later scrutiny.
Can Anyone Else Revoke My Power of Attorney?
While you—the principal in a POA agreement—can revoke a POA at any time while you are of sound mind, there may be times when an appointed guardian, family member, or another interested party feels that your agent isn’t acting in your best interests. In those cases, this third party may make a court request to terminate the power of attorney agreement. The court requires evidence that the POA is either incapacitated and unable to make decisions, or isn’t acting in your best interests before a judge will revoke the power of attorney upon a third party’s request.
Once a power of attorney has been revoked, the principal or their guardian should do the following:
- Provide written notice of the revocation to the former agent
- Provide copies of the revocations to relevant financial institutions and healthcare providers who may have engaged with the former agent
- Have an attorney assist with preparing a new power of attorney
A power of attorney is an important contract between two people. It’s essential for the principal to have complete trust in the person meant to represent them in critical decision-making, especially for family law matters. If you have any questions about appointing or removing a power of attorney, it’s always best to speak to an attorney with years of experience in this area of law.