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How to Revoke a Power of Attorney: A Step-by-Step Guide

A young man is showing his grandfather how to revoke a power of attorney.

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Wondering how to revoke a power of attorney? Since a power of attorney legally authorizes someone else to make important legal decisions on your behalf, there may be instances where you need to rescind this power.

Fortunately, you have the right to revoke a power of attorney if you need to regain control over your legal decisions or transfer a power of attorney to someone else. Learn how to revoke a power of attorney with this step-by-step guide to the revocation process.

Understand the Formalities of a Power of Attorney

Before you learn how to revoke a power of attorney, it’s essential to understand what it is and the formalities of the agreement itself. A power of attorney is a written document that gives another person (the “agent”) the legal authority to represent your interests in your private, business, financial, or other legal affairs if you become incapacitated.

For a power of attorney to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by the “principal” (the person for whom the document is drafted) in the presence of a notary public. Some states also require that two or more witnesses are present. Additionally, some states differ as to whether the power of attorney must be recorded.

All states impose strict requirements regarding the principal’s soundness of mind. The principal must understand the nature of the document and which powers it grants to an agent, and act without outside pressure or influence.

1. Know Who Can Override a Power of Attorney

In general, if you (as the principal) are of sound mind, you can always revoke a power of attorney for any reason. In some cases, a court-appointed guardian or principal’s loved ones can override a power of attorney out of concern that the agent is not acting in your best interests (for instance, the agent may have run up a large debt in your name or transferred your assets without consent).

Once a power of attorney appointment is challenged by a third party, the court will review the case to determine whether the court-appointed revocation is warranted.

2. Determine What Kind of Power of Attorney You Have

Now that you understand the formalities of how to revoke a power of attorney, including the basics of who can override it, you must determine the type of power of attorney you have. There are two main types: financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney authorizes the agent to act on behalf of the principal in financial matters, such as making decisions about the principal’s property. Important points regarding the financial power of attorney include the following:

  • This can also be called a “general” power of attorney
  • The agent is legally obligated to make choices consistent with the principal’s desires, but has full authority to make decisions unless a power of attorney is challenged or revoked
  • In some states, this kind of power of attorney is considered “durable,” which means it remains valid after the principal becomes incapacitated (such as becoming unconscious after an injury)

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney authorizes an agent to make healthcare decisions for a principal. These decisions can include choices about treatment options, medication, end-of-life care, and surgery. This power of attorney ensures that if you experience a sudden injury or disability, someone you trust can make essential decisions on your behalf. Important facts regarding a medical power of attorney include the following:

  • It can also be called a healthcare power of attorney
  • A durable medical power of attorney will be instituted if you are incapacitated, under general anesthesia, unable to communicate due to an illness such as a stroke, or in a coma

If you’re ready to begin the revocation process, you’ll need to identify which type of power of attorney authorization you want to end.

3. Determine if Your Power of Attorney is Binding

The next step to learning how to revoke a power of attorney is to ask yourself, Is your power of attorney binding? Powers of attorney can be nondurable, durable, or springing.

If you’ve had an accident and are in recovery with a nondurable power of attorney, you won’t need to revoke the power of attorney because it is already no longer binding at that point.

4. Consider Transferring Your Power of Attorney

When figuring out how to revoke a power of attorney, you may wish to transfer your authorization from your current agent to another. To do so, you’ll need to revoke the original power of attorney document and write a new one.

5. Follow the Needed Steps for Revocation of a Power of Attorney

Once you’ve determined what kind of power of attorney you have and whether you want to transfer or terminate it, the steps needed to revoke a power of attorney are relatively simple.

You must prepare a Notice of Revocation, typically found in the original documents you signed, in order to revoke it. You will need to sign (and have a notary public notarize) the document. If your power of attorney was recorded at your local recorder of deeds office, you’d also need to register the revocation there.

6. Send Notice to Your Agent About the Termination

You’ll then need to notify your agent that you are terminating the power of attorney relationship. Afterward, provide notice to your financial and healthcare institutions (depending on the type of power of attorney you have) to inform them of the change. Plan to provide them with written documentation.

You may be asking, do you need a lawyer to revoke a power of attorney? The answer is generally no, not technically. However, to ensure you’re following all the needed formalities and protecting yourself and your assets, you may wish to do so.

Do You Have Additional Questions About How to Revoke a Power of Attorney?

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This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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