I often get the question, when does my Will or Power of Attorney expire? Estate planning documents such as these do not just expire at a certain time, unless the document specifically states otherwise. So, these documents are valid until revoked, rewritten or upon your death.
That being said, it is a good idea to have estate planning documents that are recent: a good rule of thumb is within five (5) to ten (10) years. First, it is very likely that over the course of time your nominated Executor or Power of Attorney has moved away, died or you would prefer to have another person fill this role. For instance, it is not uncommon for parents to draft a Will when their children are young and name a sibling or parent as an Executor. But, fast forward twenty years and those same parents are now ready to have their child act as Executor. The Will must be rewritten to make this change effective.
Second, it’s very possible the original document is lost or misplaced. In today’s digital age, copies can be accepted, but an original will eventually need to be produced. It’s also possible that both the original and the copy have been misplaced. In this situation, it is like they don’t exist at all.
Lastly, and this pertains only to financial powers of attorney, your banking or financial institution may arbitrarily determine that the power of attorney is “too old” and it will not be honored. Refusing to accept a valid power of attorney has questionable legality. However, the reality is that many POA’s have used their power for their own benefit, not the maker. A power of attorney in the hands of someone who is untrustworthy is a way for that person to empty bank accounts. Banks especially have been hard hit by unscrupulous agents and therefore are very concerned of being sued by the account holder. So, in response, the bank unilaterally decides when a power of attorney is “too old”.
So, to make a long story short, no your documents don’t just automatically expire. But, for the practical reasons listed here, it is a good idea to periodically review your documents, keep your documents recent (even if it means simply resigning the same document with an updated date), or, at the very least, make sure you know where your original documents are located!