Estate Planning 101

When Does a Power of Attorney Expire in Vermont

This article will delve into the different types of POAs, their durations, and their expiration policies within the jurisdiction of Vermont. 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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Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful legal instrument that enables one person (the principal) to authorize another person (the agent) to act on their behalf. Understanding the duration of a POA is an essential part of estate planning, especially in the state of Vermont. The duration of a POA generally depends on its type - durable, springing, limited, or medical - and the specific terms set out in the document.

The duration of a Power of Attorney is often defined within the document:

In Vermont, the lifespan of a POA is typically determined by the provisions of the POA document itself. This implies that a POA can be designated to expire on a certain date, upon the occurrence of a specified event, or upon the incapacitation or death of the principal. These conditions can be set by the principal when creating the POA to meet their specific needs.

The type of Power of Attorney also affects its duration:

Understanding the different types of POAs and their expiration rules is critical. Each type of POA has its own unique characteristics and expiration rules.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney: This POA remains valid even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. For instance, if a principal is diagnosed with dementia, the durable POA will remain effective, allowing the agent to make decisions on their behalf. However, like all POAs, it ceases to be effective upon the death of the principal.
  2. Springing Power of Attorney: A springing POA only becomes effective under specific circumstances, usually the principal's incapacitation. For example, if a principal is in a coma following an accident, a springing POA would become active, allowing the agent to make necessary decisions. Once the principal regains capacity, the POA becomes invalid unless otherwise mentioned in the document.
  3. Limited Power of Attorney: Also known as a special POA, it is used for a specific purpose or for a limited period. For instance, if a principal needs someone to manage their affairs while they are abroad, a limited POA could be used. Once the specific task is completed or the duration is over, the POA automatically ends.
  4. Medical Power of Attorney: This POA enables the agent to make medical decisions for the principal if they are unable to do so. 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.

Having a clear understanding of these different types of POAs and their respective expiration rules can aid individuals and their appointed agents to navigate the legal landscape of power of attorney in Vermont more effectively.

Revocation of a Power of Attorney:

If a principal decides to revoke a POA before its stated expiration date, they must follow certain legal procedures under Vermont law. The revocation of a POA involves more than just deciding one day that the agreement is over. It requires a sound understanding of legal procedures to ensure that all responsibilities are properly terminated.

  1. The principal must draft 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's very important that this document is signed and dated by the principal.
  2. The principal should then deliver this revocation notice to the agent. This can be done in person or via 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 be 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.

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

Power of Attorney after the principal's death:

Once the principal passes away, the POA generally becomes null and void. The agent does not have the authority to manage the deceased's estate. This task 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 instances, the agent may also be named as the executor or trustee. In such cases, 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.