What is Irrevocable Power of Attorney?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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An irrevocable power of attorney is a legal document that gives one party, called an agent or attorney-in-fact, the power to make decisions for the creator, or principal. For example, a person who is given power of attorney may make financial decisions for the principal and even decide where he should live and who should care for him. This type of power of attorney is irrevocable, however, which means the principal cannot revoke or alter it if he changes his mind later. Since an individual may well have reason to change his mind, irrevocable powers of attorney are less common than those that can be revoked.

With most powers of attorney, the principal signs over control while he is of sound mind. He chooses to allow another person to make decisions for him, but retains the right to take back control of his affairs or name a different person his agent in a new power of attorney. He might do this, for example, if the agent he chose made poor decisions or if the agent's help was no longer necessary. He would not have this automatic right with an irrevocable power of attorney, however.


Sometimes an irrevocable power of attorney is not expected to continue indefinitely and includes a clause that ends the contract on a specific date. This means that if a person wants to create an irrevocable power of attorney giving another party financial control over his affairs, he may add a clause that ends the agreement after a set amount of time. Sometimes such clauses end the power of attorney situation once a particular condition has been met rather than on a specific date. In either case, these clauses are often referred to as "sunset provisions."

Since many people would rather retain the right to terminate a power of attorney if need be, many people reserve irrevocable powers of attorney for dealing with specific financial matters. For example, a person may want to give a broker or agent the power to control his assets in exchange for his exclusive service. This power may be granted as part of an overall contract and cannot be terminated by the principal unless the agent agrees to it. A person may also create an irrevocable power of attorney that stays in effect until the agent has sold or transferred the party's assets. At that point, a sunset provision may allow for the termination of the agreement.


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Post 3

@Mor - I knew a family where there was a gene that meant that several of them would slowly lose their cognitive abilities, until they were essentially mindless. They all signed the irrevocable power of attorney form to put their legal rights into a family member's hands before the end was even close, because they knew by the time they were starting to lose their minds, it would already be too late.

I hope I'm never faced with that kind of situation, but unfortunately, it's a growing problem for everyone, since people live so much longer they have time to develop these kinds of conditions.

Post 2

@MrsPramm - I can't imagine someone being able to assume a durable power of attorney over another person without there being a very good reason. The courts simply wouldn't allow it.

Usually it only happens when someone is basically dying in a hospice and can reasonably said to not be able to speak for themselves. Sometimes it happens when someone is intellectually handicapped, either by illness or accident and basically can't think for themselves.

No one is going to give someone the ability to assume this kind of power on a whim. If the person is of sound mind, this kind of thing probably isn't necessary.

Post 1

It must be quite scary to have to take this kind of step. I've had to give general power of attorney to my mother before, when I was going overseas and would be out of communications reach for a while, and even that made me nervous. It's not that I don't trust her, but it is a very big step to allow someone that much power over you, particularly when you aren't there to defend yourself.

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