Critter Corner: How Do I Properly Revoke a Power of Attorney?

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

I appointed my son to be my agent under my Power of Attorney five years ago. Since then, he has shown his true colors as a spendthrift with massive credit card debt. I don’t think I can trust him to handle my finances, should I become incapacitated and unable to do so myself. How do I properly revoke a Power of Attorney?


Spence Tumuch

Dear Spence,

As long as you are mentally competent, if for any reason you become unhappy with the person you have appointed (the “agent”) to make decisions for you under a durable power of attorney (POA), you may revoke the power of attorney at any time.

Once you (the “principal”) sign a power of attorney, it will generally become effective immediately and continue to be effective until your death, at which point the executor of your estate or trustee of your trust will take over. However, at any time during your life, so long as you are not incapacitated, you can always remove your agent or sign a new power of attorney naming a new agent, and this new power of attorney will revoke the old power of attorney.

How to Revoke  a Power of Attorney

To revoke a power of attorney, the following can happen:

  • With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, you can complete a formal written document revoking your POA at any time, for any reason, while you’re still competent. You should also try to get the old original POA back from your agent. If you can’t get it back, send the agent a certified letter, stating that the POA has been revoked. You must sign and the revocation request and have it notarized. If you believe your agent has registered your power of attorney with any financial institutions, you should contact each financial institution to send them a copy of the revocation document so they are aware that the power of attorney has been revoked.
  • It is also be possible to revise the stipulations of a POA as the principal or a family member. Revisions could limit or broaden the agent’s responsibilities and powers.
  • Family members may try to remove an agent, as well. If the principal is already incapacitated but family members wish to change or remove an agent under a POA, they can file a petition for guardianship and conservatorship with the courts, challenging the agent. The agent may lose POA if the courts find evidence that he or she is not acting within the principal’s best interests.
  • The agent can also decline POA responsibilities. If the person named as the principal’s agent under power of attorney no longer desires the role, he or she can opt out of it before or after it becomes valid. The co-agents or alternative agent will then take over the role of agent under POA.

What to Do Afterwards

Upon official removal of an agent under power of attorney, you should either destroy all copies of the original power of attorney document or attach copies of the signed revocation to them. This will confirm that no one can use the revoked power of attorney. The agent should be fully aware that he or she no longer has the power to make decisions for the principal. If you need help revoking a power of attorney in Virginia, Maryland, or DC, be sure to contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

Remember, if you revoke a power of attorney, it is important to have a new one in place. The attorneys at the Farr Law Firm can assist you in revoking an old power of attorney or drafting a new one.

Hope this helps!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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