Who can override a power of attorney? When is it necessary and how is it done?

Short answer: a principal (aka, the person who granted the power of attorney) can override a power of attorney (POA).

However, if the principal is not of sound mind then a loved one or a guardian can take steps to override a POA. 

Let’s go ahead and explore why you need POAs, when they are necessary, and how to override them. 

Why do you need a POA, and what are the main reasons to override one?

A power of attorney is usually set up when you (as the principal) appoint someone else (an agent) to make decisions on your behalf, either because you won’t be present at the location, you trust their opinion, or you might not have the capacity to make necessary decisions on your own. 

Different types of power of attorneys are necessary for different situations.

The most common ones are general power of attorney, durable power of attorney, springing power of attorney, and medical power of attorney.

Usually, when people seek to override a power of attorney, it’s for one of the following reasons:

  • The POA was acquired out of deceit
  • The agent does not have or no longer has the best interest of the principal in mind
  • The principal who signed the POA did not have the mental capacity to do so
  • The principal no longer trusts the judgment of the attorney
  • Family members have a dispute over the POA or the agent’s authority 
  • The principal is now in better shape (in case of a medical power of attorney) and would like to take their own decisions 

Who can override a power of attorney?

If the principal’s wishes are not being met, the principal can override the power of attorney. 

However, after the principal’s death, or in cases where the agent is abusing the power they have been entrusted with (or having their authority as POA abused), and the principal cannot act upon it, a guardian (either court-appointed or otherwise) or a loved one (family members, friends, concerned parties, etc.), can file for legal action to take the responsibilities of the power of attorney away. 

How do you override power of attorney?

In cases of real estate planning, financial decisions, or medical decisions, drafting a power of attorney document is more than just a good idea — it’s often necessary to keep everything above board and legal. 

Likewise, situations sometimes arise where a POA may need to be revoked (as mentioned above, instances of the agent not adhering to the principal’s wishes, the agent being unwell, or of the agent being manipulated). 

So, let’s go ahead and see how to override power of attorney:

If done by the principal 

The principal has the right to revoke a power of attorney at any time and appoint an alternate agent (provided they’re of sound mind).

However, for the revocation to be valid, the principal needs to expressly state their intent to revoke the POA in writing. 

Some states allow an oral revocation too, but it’s always best to have it in writing. 

Here’s what to do next:

Step 1. Go to PandaDoc, and select the Revocation of Power of Attorney template

Step 2. Click on the auto-fillable fields, and assign the names of the principal and agent. 

Step 3. Select the signature field, write the date, and draw or upload your signature. 

Step 4. Send the document to your notary (please check if your state law allows the use of e-signatures) by clicking on Send > Send via email/Send via link. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to send your document to a traditional notary, you can notarize documents with PandaDoc’s Notary too. 

Step 5. Once the notary has signed the document, send the document to your agent (as well as other relevant persons/institutions, such as healthcare providers, law firms, or board of directors). 

Step 6. In some cases, you might also need to set up a new power of attorney, which can be done by signing a power of attorney form or another legal document. 

If done by a third-party (guardian or loved one)

If a third party wishes to revoke the legal authority granted to the agent, they can either:

  1. Go to the principal and ask them to revoke the authority. 
  2. If the principal does not have the physical or mental capacity to reverse their decision and revoke the agent’s authority, the third party can contact the agent through the lawyer or law firm involved. 
  3. If the agent refuses to give up the POA, the last resort would be to take legal action. The third party (friends, family members, or loved ones) can file a petition with court to ask that the decision be reversed. 

Please note that they will need to present proof and claims as to why they wish the authority to be revoked (for example, the POA needs to be revoked because the agent is using the principal’s bank account for their own benefit). 

If you make the decision to go to court, we highly recommend you get legal advice by contacting an experienced lawyer who deals in this area of expertise. 

Things to consider when setting up a POA

As the saying goes, a little prevention is worth a lot of cure, so here are a few things you should consider before setting up a power of attorney:

1. Different states have different rules

Different states have different rules on how to set up a power of attorney, how to revoke them, how to sign documents for revoking, etc. (You can access state-specific POA templates from PandaDoc’s library.) 

2. Add an expiration date to your POA

If you’re trusting a stranger as an agent, we highly recommend you add an expiration date to your POA (aka, set up a general power of attorney or a springing POA). 

3. Know your rights and responsibilities!

While a principal has many rights, there are some responsibilities attached to being a principal, too, such as being extremely clear in your instructions. 

4. Always date, sign, and create your legal documents in writing

Always date, sign, and create your legal documents in writing. Speaking of which, PandaDoc is a free solution that allows you to create legally valid, free e-signatures, so you can sign your important documents with PandaDoc without any worry!