When Does a President’s Term Officially End?

You may be aware that newly elected U.S. presidents take office sometime in January. You may even know that the inauguration occurs on January 20th. What you may not know is that it’s technically illegal for a president who’s leaving office to continue serving after that date. As the 20th Amendment states, “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January … and the terms of their successors shall then begin.” In other words, a presidential term is exactly four years long, down to the hour. In the three cases where January 20th fell on a Sunday, the president took the oath of office in a private ceremony on that day, and the public inauguration was held the following day. As for what exiting presidents actually do during their last days in office, it’s not all long lunches and lazy walks around the well-kept White House grounds. There are usually plenty of 11th hour pardons to make, and it’s tradition for the president to pen a letter to their successor.