Estate Planning 101

When Does a Power of Attorney Expire in Texas

This article will delve into the different types of POAs, their durations, and their expiration policies within the jurisdiction of Texas. 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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In the vast state of Texas, understanding the intricacies of a Power of Attorney (POA) is essential for efficient estate planning. A POA is a legal document that enables an individual (the principal) to grant another person or entity (the agent) the power to make decisions on their behalf. The duration of a POA is largely influenced by its type - durable, springing, limited, or medical - and the specific conditions outlined in the agreement.

The duration of a Power of Attorney is typically defined in the document:

In Texas, a POA generally lasts as long as the conditions specified in the document itself. This means the POA can be set to terminate on a specific date, when a particular event occurs, or upon the principal's incapacitation or death. These conditions can be explicitly defined by the principal when establishing the POA to cater to their specific requirements.

Different types of Power of Attorney have different durations:

Understanding the various types of POAs and their expiration rules is key. Each type of POA operates differently and the duration may vary accordingly.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney: A durable POA remains effective even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. For instance, if a principal is diagnosed with dementia, the durable POA will continue to be in effect, allowing the agent to make decisions on their behalf. However, like all POAs, it ends upon the principal's death.
  2. Springing Power of Attorney: A springing POA only becomes active under certain conditions, typically when the principal becomes incapacitated. For example, if a principal suffers a stroke and is unable to communicate, a springing POA would spring into effect, enabling the agent to make necessary decisions. The POA ceases to be valid when the principal regains capacity, 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 duration. For example, if a principal needs someone to handle their financial affairs while they are out of the country, a limited POA could be used. Once the task is completed or the duration ends, the POA automatically expires.
  4. Medical Power of Attorney: This type of POA authorizes the agent to make medical decisions for the principal if they become incapable of doing so. This type of POA ends when the principal regains the ability to make decisions, revokes the POA, or passes away.

Understanding these different types of POAs and their respective expiration rules can help principals and their appointed agents to navigate the legal landscape of power of attorney in Texas more effectively.

Revoking a Power of Attorney:

In Texas, if a principal decides to revoke a POA before its stated expiration date, they must follow certain legal procedures. The revocation of a POA involves more than just a verbal declaration; it requires a proper understanding of legal procedures to ensure all responsibilities are appropriately terminated.

  1. First, the principal must prepare a written notice of revocation. This document should include the principal's name, the agent's name, and the date the original POA was executed. It is crucial that this document is signed and dated by the principal.
  2. The principal must then deliver this revocation notice to the agent. This can be done in person or through certified mail with return receipt requested, to provide proof of delivery. It is also advisable to notify any third parties (like banks or other financial institutions) that may have been dealing with the agent under the authority of the POA.

Once these steps are completed, the revocation is generally effective immediately, and the agent 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.

Please 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 revoking a POA, it's always recommended to consult with an experienced attorney to guide you through the process in accordance with Texas law.

Power of Attorney after the principal's death:

Upon the death of the principal, the POA generally becomes null and void in Texas. The agent does not have the authority to handle 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.

The executor or administrator's role begins upon the principal's death, whereas the agent's role ends. The executor or administrator is responsible for gathering the deceased's assets, paying off any debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will, all under the supervision of the probate court.

Trustees, on the other hand, are individuals or entities 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 agent 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.