Who Can Override a Power of Attorney?

You can override your own power of attorney agent if you are of sound mind. If not, loved ones can intervene.
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A power of attorney (POA) — which is a legal document that names a person to act on someone else's behalf in certain legal, medical or financial cases can be overridden by the creator (or principal) at any time, as long as they are of sound mind. If the principal cannot override their POA agent, or the person appointed to act on their behalf, loved ones may attempt to do so

American Bar Association. Power of Attorney. Accessed Jul 25, 2023.
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Reasons to override a power of attorney

A POA may need to be removed if the agent is:

  • Abusing their position. This could include taking advantage of their role by using the principal's assets to make a profit for themselves or not upholding their fiduciary responsibilities to follow the principal's instructions and make financial decisions based on the principal's best interests. 

  • Combining assets with the principal. Unless the POA agreement allows it, the POA should not create joint accounts or connections between themselves and the principal.

  • Unable or unwilling to keep and/or share the proper records. This includes things such as investments, receipts, disbursements and transactions. 

  • Overstepping their authority. POAs shouldn't take any actions that the POA document prohibits

    .

What are the steps to overriding your power of attorney?

Steps to override your power of attorney vary by state. For example, the formal way to end a power of attorney in Illinois includes filling out a revocation form, getting it notarized and sending it to the agent

Illinois Legal Aid Online. Ending a power of attorney. Accessed Jul 25, 2023.
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Check with a lawyer or local court to ensure that any method you take is legal. In general, though, you should make the change in writing, typically through one of the following methods:

  1. Mail. Provide written documentation of removal to the current agent through the mail. When removing a power of attorney this way, you should select a type of mail delivery that requires signed certification of receipt by the agent.

  2. Electronically. In some states, written notification through email that you are revoking your agent's authority is enough to remove them from the position.

  3. In person. There are also approved methods of personal delivery that vary by state. An estate lawyer can help ensure the proper removal of a power of attorney through this method.

If there are additional rules regarding agent removal listed within the power of attorney document, you should follow those guidelines.

After removing your agent, you should notify any third parties that may have been in contact with the current agent — like your bank or doctor — to alert them of the change.

What are the steps to overriding someone else's power of attorney?

In some cases, loved ones may become concerned about the ability of an agent to fulfill their duties. When that happens, there are a few options.

  1. Discuss issues with the principal. In a case where the principal is of sound mind, an individual can address their concerns directly to them. If their concerns are founded (perhaps through the request of an accounting of actions taken by the agent) and the principal agrees, the principal can go about removing the agent through the steps listed above.

  2. Talk to an attorney. If the principal has an estate planning lawyer, anyone concerned about an agent's actions can speak with that attorney for advice. In some cases, the lawyer can revoke the power of attorney.

  3. Go to the court in the county where the principal resides. If the principal isn't able to physically request the removal of an agent and consulting a lawyer isn't an option, visit the county court where the principal lives and create a petition to request a replacement. 

What happens after you override a power of attorney?

If you haven't already, consider appointing a successor agent in your POA. This person would take over the responsibilities of the agent if you decide to override your original agent, or if something were to happen to the original agent and they could no longer perform their duties.

🤓Nerdy Tip

A successor agent is different from naming a co-agent who would serve at the same time as your original agent. Naming more than one person to act as an agent together isn't usually necessary and may lead to disagreements or other legal issues.

If you don't have someone listed as a successor and you remove the current agent, pick a new agent as soon as possible. If something happens to you before doing so, a court may be required to appoint someone for you.

Frequently asked questions

A person can decline agent responsibilities or quit whenever they like. The rules for an agent to resign from their power of attorney duties are usually laid out in the power of attorney document. That often includes the agent notifying the principal in writing of their decision. If the principal isn’t in a position to receive notification, the agent may resign through a notice to the person in charge of caring for the principal. If you’ve named a successor within your power of attorney document, that person becomes the agent when your original agent resigns. If you didn’t, you’ll need to name someone new.

State law dictates what happens to someone if they are incapacitated and unable to handle their business or personal affairs and don’t have a power of attorney. In most cases, a court may appoint a guardian or conservator to take over for you.

There are two types of POAs: financial and health. A financial POA handles your money and any legal needs. A health care POA (or “proxy”) makes medical decisions for you when you cannot do so. You can name the same person to be both your financial and health care POA, or you can have different people for each.

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