A power of attorney is an agreement that gives you the authority to act on someone else's behalf. You're not court-appointed or ordered to act by a judge - it's authority the other person voluntarily elects to give you - so resigning the position usually is usually about as easy as it gets. You can't be forced to participate against your will.
The Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a written, voluntary agreement between the principal -- the person giving the powers -- and his agent, also called an attorney-in-fact in some states, although he doesn’t have to be a lawyer. The agent is entrusted with handling certain dealings for the principal, which are typically spelled out in the power of attorney document. The responsibilities can be extensive and not everyone is cut out for the job or willing to accept it. If you’re uncomfortable with being an agent, you can decline the appointment in the first place or resign from the position after you accept it.
Read More: Does Power of Attorney Override a Will?
Inform the Principal of you Resignation
Resigning your position as agent is as simple as informing the principal that you don’t want to serve anymore. The power of attorney document might set out a specific procedure that you should follow, but if not, you can usually just give the principal written notice. If he’s incapacitated and incapable of understanding, most states allow you to deliver the notice to his guardian instead. If no guardian has been appointed, you may be able to give your resignation to the person who is physically caring for him, but check with a local attorney to make sure. If the principal is a ward of the state, you can usually give notice to the court. Often, a principal will name two attorneys-in-fact, either to perform the duties together or to allow one to step in and serve if the other can’t or doesn’t want to. In this case, give notice of your resignation to the other attorney-in-fact.
If none of these individuals is available, you may have to petition the court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to care for the principal’s personal business. This relieves you from the obligation of acting as agent, but someone must be in place to take over your responsibilities - you can’t simply abandon the ship.
Prepare and File a Resignation Document
In most cases, serving the principal with written notice of your resignation is sufficient. But if the power of attorney has been filed with the government for some reason, you should also deliver a copy to the county public records or land records office -- wherever the original power of attorney was placed on record. This is sometimes the case if the power of attorney authorized you to handle real estate transactions for the principal.
You might want to do this anyway to create a public record that you’re stepping aside and are no longer responsible for handling the principal’s personal affairs.
Other Reasons for Termination
In some cases, your power of attorney may end automatically and you won’t have to take any particular action to resign. The principal’s death automatically revokes a power of attorney, and the executor or personal representative of the estate takes over your duties by law. If you and the principal were married, most states revoke powers of attorney in the event of divorce. Also, you can be removed by the principal by written notice, or someone interested in his welfare can petition the court to have you removed if he feels you’re acting negligently or are incapable of adequately performing your duties.
Resigning as a power of attorney is as easy as informing the principal that you don't want the appointment anymore and then providing written notice of your resignation. The original power of attorney document may contain an agreed-upon procedure for resignation; if that's the case, follow those steps.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.