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Understanding the Limits: Who Can Override a Power of Attorney?

November 29, 2023

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants an individual, known as the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact," the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person, the "principal." They are used in a variety of situations to ensure an individual's assets are cared for.

When Is A Power of Attorney Used?

Here are some common scenarios in which a power of attorney is used:

Financial Matters

  • Banking Transactions: If you're unable to handle your financial affairs due to travel, illness, or other reasons, a financial power of attorney allows someone else to manage your bank accounts, pay bills, and handle other financial transactions on your behalf.
  • Property Management: A power of attorney can be used to delegate the authority to manage, buy, or sell real estate and other properties.

Healthcare Decisions

  • Medical Treatment: A medical or healthcare power of attorney allows someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to communicate or make decisions about your medical treatment.
  • End-of-Life Decisions: A living will, often included as part of a healthcare power of attorney, specifies your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment in the event of a terminal illness or irreversible condition.

Business Affairs

  • Business Transactions: In the business world, a power of attorney can be useful for authorizing someone to make business decisions, sign contracts, or manage business operations on your behalf.
  • Legal Representation: If you are unable to attend legal proceedings, a power of attorney allows someone to represent you in court or legal matters.

Estate Planning

  • Estate Management: A power of attorney can be part of an estate plan, allowing someone to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • Executor Authority: In some cases, a power of attorney may grant someone the authority to act as an executor of your estate after your death.

Military Deployment 

  • Deployment Assistance: Military personnel may use a power of attorney to grant authority to a trusted individual to handle their affairs while they are deployed.

Temporary Absence

  • Travel or Temporary Incapacity: If you're planning to be out of the country or temporarily unavailable, a power of attorney can ensure that someone can manage your affairs during your absence.

Specialized Transactions

  • Specific Transactions: A power of attorney can be limited to a specific task or transaction, such as selling a car, managing investments, or handling a specific legal matter.

Who Can Override a Power of Attorney?

While a power of attorney can be a valuable tool for managing affairs, it's essential to understand that this authority is not absolute. There are situations where the power of attorney can be overridden or revoked.

  • Legal Limitations on the Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is subject to certain legal limitations, and these limitations vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific terms outlined in the document. Generally, the law imposes constraints on actions that go beyond the scope of the granted authority or violate the rights of the principal.
  • Revocation by the Principal: A principal can choose to revoke a power of attorney at any time, as long as they have the legal capacity to do so. This revocation typically requires a written document, and the principal must inform the agent and any relevant third parties, such as banks or healthcare providers, about the revocation.
  • Legal Capacity of the Principal: If the principal loses the legal capacity to make decisions, the power of attorney may be automatically revoked. This loss of capacity could be due to mental incapacity, illness, or any other factor that renders the principal unable to make informed decisions.
  • Expiration of the Power of Attorney: Some powers of attorney have a specified expiration date. Once that date is reached, the authority granted by the document automatically terminates. It's important to review the terms of the power of attorney to understand its duration.
  • Court Intervention: In certain cases, a court may intervene to override a power of attorney. This can happen if there is evidence of abuse, fraud, or if the agent is not acting in the best interests of the principal. Courts have the authority to investigate and, if necessary, revoke or modify a power of attorney.
  • Challenging the Validity of the Power of Attorney: Interested parties, such as family members or other concerned individuals, may challenge the validity of a power of attorney. Common grounds for challenging include coercion, fraud, undue influence, or if the document wasn't properly executed according to legal requirements.

Including a Power of Attorney in Your Financial Plan

While a power of attorney is a useful legal tool for managing your affairs, it is not without limitations. Understanding who can override a power of attorney and what circumstances could cause it to be revoked is crucial for ensuring that the rights and best interests of the principal are protected. 

You should seek out legal advice when you have questions or concerns regarding the execution, validity, or enforcement of a power of attorney, especially since the laws surrounding these documents can vary widely based on jurisdiction.

Do you want or need to include a power of attorney in your financial plan? Totus Wealth Management is here to help you figure out what works best for your circumstances, then we’ll connect with your legal professional to ensure everything works out according to your plan. Check out our website to schedule an appointment today.