Legal Insurance

Who Can Override a Power of Attorney, and How Is It Revoked?

3 min read
Dec 01, 2022

Power of attorney (POA) appoints someone to manage financial decisions in the event of physical or mental incapacitation. The principal — that is, the person who assigned POA to someone (an agent) on their behalf — can revoke it.

However, it may not always be that simple. If the principal is incapacitated and the agent is believed to be taking advantage of their position, then it’s up to concerned family and friends to challenge their POA. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in revoking power of attorney.

How to revoke power of attorney

There are multiple types of power of attorney, but they can be broadly distributed into two categories. Medical POA grants someone the ability to make crucial medical decisions for the principal if they’re incapacitated. Similarly, financial POA allows an agent to handle the principal’s monetary affairs, such as paying bills or finalizing real estate transactions.

Assigning power of attorney is an important step in end-of-life planning. It’s a way to ensure the principal’s wishes are carried out if they’re physically or mentally unable to take those actions themself. If an agent becomes unsuitable, then family and friends may want to investigate the possibility of revoking POA.

If an agent is unfit for their position, it’s important to understand the details of the principal’s POA documents before taking any action. Determine what type of POA the agent has, the extent of their responsibilities, and if an alternate agent has been named. It can be a difficult process, but an estate planning attorney can help.

Option 1: Speak to the principal

Consulting the principal should always be the first path. Explain any concerns about their chosen agent. If they’re of sound mind, the principal can override power of attorney verbally and select a new agent. It’s also a good idea to have them complete a revocation of POA form so the decision is officially documented.

Option 2: Address the agent

If the principal can’t or won’t revoke power of attorney, the next course of action can be to speak to the agent. It’s best to do this through an attorney. That way, there’s no room for misinterpretation.

An attorney will formally request that the agent steps down. If an alternate agent was named in the original POA documents, they’ll step into the agent role. If not, an attorney can assist with the process of petitioning for a conservator or guardian.

If the agent disputes the request that they step down, then it becomes a matter that may have to be settled in court.

Option 3: Take it to court

If the first two options fail, the matter can go to court. There, an attorney can ask the court to override the agent’s power of attorney. It can be a long and challenging process, particularly if the principal named a durable POA. An attorney may also ask the court to appoint a temporary conservator or guardian while the case unfolds.

The judge will require evidence that the agent is neglecting or abusing their duties. There also needs to be proof the principal is not of sound mind and should have their wishes overruled. A good attorney will help by building a case against the agent and bringing in experts to evaluate the principal’s capacity.

Can a spouse override power of attorney?

As a legal designation, power of attorney always takes precedence over the wishes of a spouse. If one has concerns about their partner’s chosen agent, they’ll still need to follow the steps outlined above. Discussing a potential agent with a spouse and other family members beforehand can help avoid such conflicts.

Revoking power of attorney: What happens next?

Once the process of revoking an agent’s POA begins, it needs to be seen through. Whether it ends with a frank discussion or a day in court depends on the individual circumstances. That’s why it’s so important to choose a POA agent with care.

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The information presented in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice. It is not permissible for MetLife or its employees or agents to give legal advice. The information in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not purport to be complete or to cover every situation. You must consult with your own legal advisors to determine how these laws will affect you.