Assigning power of attorney is an important and legally binding sign of trust between two or more people. In the event that a person should become physically or mentally incapacitated, the person named the power of attorney can make significant decisions on the person’s behalf.
While power of attorney documents are binding, they are not “set in stone.” You can change your power of attorney assignments any time, as long as you remain competent. Additionally, loved ones can challenge the power of attorney for several reasons, such as a sister abusing her power of attorney.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Before taking power of attorney away from someone, you need to know some key phrases about this legal power:
- Principal: The person who assigns the power of attorney.
- Attorney-in-fact or agent: The person who holds the power of attorney.
- Incompetent: A state of being legally unable to sign documents due to mental or physical illness.
Principals can assign many types of powers of attorney for different situations. In general, the types of powers of attorney are:
- Limited: The agent only has power in specific circumstances, such as to pay bills.
- General: The agent gains all the rights that the principal had before becoming incompetent.
- Medical/Healthcare: The agent can make medical decisions on behalf of the principal if the principal cannot.
Each type of power of attorney can be either durable or springing, designations that affect when they go into place. All powers of attorney stop when the principal passes away, at which time the executor of the will takes over many responsibilities.
When the Principal Revokes Power of Attorney
When a principal takes power of attorney away from someone, the process is relatively simple. The principal must draft a power of attorney revocation form. Because these documents are not filed with courts, a power of attorney revocation form does not have to follow any specific format. However, it’s important to include the following information:
- The date the principal revokes the power.
- Identifying information about the principal.
- The specific powers that the previous documents had granted the agent.
- A statement specifically taking power of attorney from someone named in the document.
The power of attorney revocation form does not need to state why the principal wishes to revoke the power. The principal and two witnesses should then go to a notary public to sign the letter and get it notarized. To avoid any action from the previous agent, the principal should write “REVOKED” on the documents that previously granted the person power of attorney.
Read More: Power of Attorney Rules
Send the Revocation to Any Interested Parties
Finally, the principal should send copies of the power of attorney revocation form to the person whose power was revoked and to any interested parties. For example, the principal’s attorney, hospitals and banks may all need copies.
Contesting a Loved One’s Power of Attorney
If the principal is incompetent, any attempt he or she makes to revoke the power of attorney is not legally binding. In those cases, a loved one may decide to try to change the power of attorney. For example, this may happen if you believe your sister is abusing her power of attorney.
Anyone wanting to challenge the power of attorney may file a case in court based on any of the following reasons:
- The initial document was not legal.
- The principal was not competent at the time he or she signed the document.
- The agent is abusing the rights for personal gain.
- The agent is neglecting the responsibilities.
- The agent is acting against the wishes of the principal.
If a sister is abusing her power of attorney or any other issues with the power arise, a court may revoke the power of attorney. In this case, the judge will often assign a different guardian or agent.
- If you have substantial assets to protect, file a formal statement of revocation your area’s public records. If you have business interests to protect, you may want to place the statement in your local newspaper.
- Check your state guidelines. The process may differ from state to state. For example, the State of California simply requires that you write “Revoke” in big print at the top of your original power of attorney form, sign and date at the bottom and send it to the state agency.
- Ideally, your agent assumes the obligation of acting in your best interest and following your instructions. Before selecting your agent, be sure that you are selecting someone whom you trust and be sure that he understands your point of view and wishes should you become incapacitated.
Mackenzie Maxwell has always been interested in law, working with legal issues since 2010. She served in Congress for some time, as part of the communications team for Silvestre Reyes and helped constituents understand the laws on the House floor. She stayed active in local politics to understand the laws that govern her area. As a writer, Mackenzie has worked with several lawyers to create thoughtful, helpful content.