Estate Planning 101

When Does a Power of Attorney Expire in Alabama

This article will delve into the different types of POAs, their durations, and their expiration policies within the jurisdiction of Alabama. We will also explore the potential responsibilities that someone with POA may have to handle after the death of the individual they represented.
September 14, 2023

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Powers of Attorney are a critical piece of a comprehensive estate plan. Navigating the complexities of power of attorney (POA) can be daunting, particularly when it comes to understanding its duration and expiration. The longevity of a POA varies significantly, primarily depending on the type of POA - whether it's a durable, springing, limited, or medical POA - and the specific stipulations within the agreement.

For the most part, Powers of Attorney expire when you say it does:

In Alabama, the duration of a POA is generally determined by the stipulations outlined in the POA document itself. This implies that the power of attorney can be set to expire on a specific date, upon the occurrence of a particular event, or upon the incapacitation or death of the principal. These conditions can be defined by the principal when drafting the POA to suit their requirements.

It also depends on the type of Power of Attorney:

Understanding the different types of POAs and their respective expiration rules is crucial. Each POA functions differently and the expiration can be influenced by the type of POA. 

  1. Durable Power of Attorney: This is one of the most common types of POA. It remains effective even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. This means that the attorney-in-fact can continue to make decisions on behalf of the principal. For example, if the principal has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the durable POA will remain in effect. However, like all types of POA, it ceases to be effective upon the principal's death.
  2. Springing Power of Attorney: Unlike a durable POA, a springing POA only comes into effect under specific circumstances, typically the principal's incapacitation. For instance, if a principal had a car accident and is unconscious, a springing POA would spring into effect, allowing the attorney-in-fact to make decisions. However, medical evidence is usually required to prove the principal's incapacitation. Once the principal regains capacity, the POA loses its validity unless otherwise specified in the agreement.
  3. Limited Power of Attorney: Also known as a special POA, it is used for a specific purpose or for a limited period. For example, if the principal is out of the country and needs someone to handle a property sale, a limited POA could be used. Once the property is sold, the POA automatically expires.
  4. Medical Power of Attorney: This type of POA gives the attorney-in-fact the authority to make medical decisions for the principal if they become unable to do so. For instance, if a principal is undergoing major surgery and complications arise that require further medical decisions, the attorney-in-fact can step in. This type of POA expires when the principal dies or revokes the POA, or when the principal regains the ability to make their own decisions.

Understanding these different types of POAs and their respective expiration rules can help both individuals and their appointed attorneys-in-fact to navigate the legal landscape of power of attorney in Alabama more effectively.

Powers of Attorney can also be revoked:

If a principal decides to revoke a POA before its stated expiration date, they must follow certain legal procedures prescribed by Alabama law. Revoking a POA isn't as simple as deciding one day that the agreement is over. The process can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of legal procedures to ensure all responsibilities are properly terminated.

  1. The principal must prepare a written notice stating their intention to revoke the POA. This document is known as a "Revocation of Power of Attorney." This revocation notice should include the principal's name, the attorney-in-fact's name, and the date the original POA was executed. It's very important that this document is signed and dated by the principal. 
  2. The principal should deliver this revocation notice to the attorney-in-fact. This can be done in person or through certified mail with return receipt requested, to ensure proof of delivery. It is also recommended to notify any third parties (like banks or other financial institutions) that may have been dealing with the attorney-in-fact under the authority of the POA. 

After these steps are completed, the revocation is generally effective immediately, and the attorney-in-fact no longer has the authority to act on behalf of the principal. However, in some cases, such as with a durable POA, the principal may need to record the revocation at the local county recorder's office where the original POA was filed.

It's important to note that if the principal is mentally incapacitated, they cannot legally revoke a POA. In such a case, a court may need to intervene to determine the validity of the revocation. If you are considering ending a POA, it's always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney to guide you through the process in accordance with Alabama law.

Powers of Attorney after death:

Once the principal passes away, the role of the individual acting as the attorney-in-fact (the person granted the POA) typically ends. The POA does not grant the attorney-in-fact the authority to manage or distribute the deceased's estate. This responsibility falls to the executor named in the deceased's will or to the administrator appointed by the probate court if no will exists.

While the POA ends at death, the executor or administrator's role begins. They are responsible for collecting the deceased's assets, paying any debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will. This process occurs under the supervision of the probate court.

Trustees, on the other hand, are individuals or institutions appointed to manage a trust established by the principal. Unlike a POA or executor, a trustee's role does not necessarily end with the death of the principal. Instead, their responsibilities continue as outlined in the terms of the trust agreement, which may include distributing the trust's assets to beneficiaries.

In some cases, the attorney-in-fact may also be named as the executor or trustee. In such scenarios, their responsibilities could extend beyond the principal's death, but their role changes. As an executor or trustee, they are no longer acting under the authority of the POA but rather under the authority of the will or trust agreement.