power of attorneyThe question of how long a power of attorney lasts has two different answers–a legal one and a practical one. First, the legal answer is however long you set it up to last. If you set a date for a power of attorney to lapse, then it will last until that date. If you create a general power of attorney and set no date for which it will expire, it will last until you die or become incapacitated.

You can get around the problem of having it lapse upon incapacitation by creating a durable power of attorney. The durable power of attorney, or health care power of attorney, is considered effective even if you become incapacitated. Usually, a durable power of attorney is set up to kick in only if you become incapacitated. This allows someone to manage your affairs while you can’t. If you don’t have a durable power of attorney in place when you become incapacitated, then your family will have to go to the court and get you placed in conservatorship so that they can manage your affairs. Conservatorships are a big mess and should be avoided. Basically, your family is going to have to get the court’s permission every time they want to do something.

Now for the practical answer. When you are given a power of attorney and you are going to try to take it to the bank and say you have been given control over the account, the bank is going to look at the paper and look at the date it was signed. If the document is several years old, the bank is going to tell you to go and get a new power of attorney before they let you into the account. The bank is worried that an old power of attorney may have been revoked and is no longer valid. They don’t want to take the risk of giving you access to the account if they are not sure if you should have access.

If you are taking a durable power of attorney that is several years old to the bank because the person who gave you the durable power of attorney has become incapacitated, then you may be out of luck. The bank is going to be wary of the old document and may tell you to get a new durable power of attorney. But you can’t get a new one because the person who gave you the durable power of attorney can’t make another due to their incapacitation.

This is why it is important that you review and sign a new power of attorney every few years. There is no set rule of how often you should resign one, but if you want to make sure you are safe, every 3 years would be prudent.

You don’t have to go to a lawyer to draft you a new one every time. If you don’t have any changes that need to be made, just copy the language of the old one into a new document, and sign it with witnesses and a notary.

29 Comments
  1. How do I stop a power of attorney.

  2. Vincent,
    You revoke it in writing and try to get all the copies of the old power of attorney back. You will want to take the written revocation to any banks or other institutions that have been dealing with your agent and let them know that they are no longer your agent.

  3. If in the instruction part of the power of attorney there are changes made to beneficiaries is this considered legal and binding after death

  4. How can the court revoke a durable power of attorney against my will ? It was set up in that fashion in case of my incapastation ?

  5. It’s nice to find out all this good information,well pleased

  6. I need to give GPA for civil court case

  7. My brother who asked his agent to act for him died last year January. Will the power of attorney continue to valid?

  8. Markson,
    No question. A power of attorney, durable power of attorney, or any other type of power of attorney instantly becomes void on the “principal’s” death.

  9. George,
    I don’t know the whole story, but the courts can do whatever they want if they have a reason. If you don’t fight them, they can do whatever they want without reason.

  10. Dianna,
    Nothing to do with a durable power of attorney or power of attorney in general is valid after death. The word beneficiary indicates a trust, not a durable power of attorney or general power of attorney.

  11. Shakira,
    Not completely sure what you are asking, but the last question was “Does it last after death?” The answer is no. Most states do not set any limit on how long a durable power of attorney will be valid before it has to be redone, but institutions (banks, etc.) will refuse to accept older durable power of attorney, so it is best to redo them every few years (probably at least every 5 years).

  12. Do General Power of Attorney documents have an expiration date? My father had one drawn up for me that expired. I told him about it- he went to the lawyer and had another one drawn up- he told me that the lawyer said the State we are in imposes a expiration date of two years. I can’t find any information about that anywhere.

  13. Chris,
    General powers of attorney do often have expiration dates governed by state law. Usually a durable power of attorney lasts longer, but it doesn’t take effect until the person becomes incompetent (in most cases). You can set an expiration date earlier than the state’s expiration date; the state just doesn’t want powers of attorney to be open ended.

  14. I was purchased the property on 2012 from the GPA holder, he was get GPA on 2009,the date of expiry was not mentioned in GPA. The GPA is in force till date, it is not cancel by the owner, but the owner was mortgaged the same property to the Bank on 2010. Now the Bank is ready to sale the property by the way of tender. Who is the rightfull owner of the property. Kindly send the reply as early as possible.

  15. Ravichandran,
    The mortgage was in place before you bought the property, so the general power of attorney (agent) didn’t have clear title to give you. I imagine the bank can exercise whatever rights it had in the mortgage contract.

  16. I had an attorney with A general power of attorney which governs all powers covered by a power of attorney (like buying or selling the property ). He had a heart attack. He decides(ed) to give power of attorney to his assistant/Intern in the same law firm before he dies, called ( Ms. X). I never saw the transfer of power of attorney’s text to MS. X.
    My original attorney dies. while bed-ridden and incapable of practicing,
    -I signed a new agreement with Ms. -.
    Ms. X was not doing her job and I fired her. She is suing me based on the Power of attorney and its contents which was given to her by the dead attorney. I found out after her suing me that her transfer of power of attorney to her made her to interpreted her as a new owner of my properties and can do anything she wants, including selling everything and taking her full fees, even though nothing has done yet.
    How does the law rules?
    1- Transfer of Power of attorney between first ( dead) attorney and Ms. X governs?
    2- Power of Attorney signed between Ms. X and me governs.?

  17. Ahmad,
    Your issues will be decided by what the document says. I doubt that the agent had the power to appoint a new agent if he couldn’t act. That would be determined by the terms of the general power of attorney. I assume that it was understood that the new power of attorney you signed with Mrs X was intended by both parties to replace what was probably the invalid appointment of Mrs. X by the original agent. I don’t understand all the facts, but it is unusual for an agent to sue a principal. Generally the principal (you) have the power to terminate your agent at any time for any reason and revoke the power of attorney. There again, read the document.

  18. What happens if a person who has been given Durable Power of Attorney, has died or is incapacitated?

  19. Gary,
    I assume from the question that the “agent” named in the power of attorney can’t act. You should name a first second third, etc. choices of durable power of attorney agent in the durable power of attorney. If the “principal” in the durable power of attorney becomes incompetent, then the durable power of attorney should kick in and the agent should be able to act. If the principal had died, the durable power of attorney is totally invalid and void. Stupid people at the bank, storage unit, etc will still ask for the durable power of attorney. It they are dumb enough to deal with you after the principal is dead, go ahead and go along with their stupidity – use the durable power of attorney.

  20. My husband gave me power of attorney over everything and passed away how can I get in the bank accountshe had no will

  21. In 2011, our son made his father and me power of attorney. In the meantime, the attorney who wrote the contract has passed away. Is this power of attorney document still legal?

  22. Doris,
    The power of attorney should be good, if it ever was good. What happens to the attorney has nothing to do with the “legality” of the power of attorney.

  23. How long does general power of attorney acts If last day not mentioned.

  24. Divya,
    Some states like California have laws which limit a durable power of attorney life to like five years and say it needs to be redone. Banks and other institutions have a harder time accepting older durable power of attorney papers, so it is good to redo them every five years or so. All powers of attorney become void the second the principal (guy who make them) dies.

  25. Being the oldest son of the family I had power of attorney over my mom and dad‘s estate after my mom and dad passed I no longer wanted power of attorney so my brother was willing to take it over and he did and soul somebody estate and put it in his own account that he had made at a bank in Portugal this power of attorney was done a year ago and he passed October 2 according to the power of attorney it returns back to me not the bank in Portugal is giving me a a hard time in saying that the account is not in my name so therefore it belongs to one heir and he does not have an heir; So what happens when I produce the death certificate please explain

  26. Silvestre,
    A power of attorney is totally void when the principal (the guy who makes the power of attorney) dies. A power of attorney should by law be useless as soon as the individual dies.

  27. You can’t get into the bank account. A power of attorney instantly becomes invalid upon the death of the “principal” of the power of attorney. The bank is smart enough to know that. Your husband should have had the account held in a living revocable trust. If you want to understand fully, get my book Protecting Your Financial Future. Without a will you have to probate the account “intestate.” If he left little value in his probate estate, most states have a simplified probate process.

  28. I was POA over my father estate for 4 years. My father deeded one of his house to me for health reasons. He has passed away, and I paid the property off in full. The bank Mortgage company sent me an escrow check; however, it’s not in my name as the owner of the property. It states Estate of ex: E l Smith. Why did they do this? And is it legal for me to sign this check?

  29. Rumel,
    I am always asking the question, “Why did the bank do that?”  I don’t know what the bank did.  If it is your property, they should be dealing with you, not your dad’s estate.  A power of attorney instantly becomes invalid–void–gone when the principal (your dad) dies.  A power of attorney is only for the living, not the dead.  Yet, I am stunned how many people ask for the power of attorney after the person dies.  Use it if you can.  It is their liability for dealing with the wrong person, not your problem.   

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