POWER OF ATTORNEY
One of the most important and powerful legal documents that should be included in every estate plan is a Power of Attorney (POA). A power of attorney authorizes a person over 18 years of age or a financial institution (the "agent") to take care of the personal affairs and assets of another person (the "principal").
A person must be competent to execute a power of attorney and should chose only a trusted person or organization to serve as their agent because of the importance of the powers granted in such legal document. A power of attorney in Florida takes effect as soon as the principal signs it, but the principal is not required to deliver the document to the agent until such time as help is needed. The agent must execute an "acceptance of agent" document before taking any action on behalf of the principal.
Benefits of a Power of Attorney
Having a power of attorney in place is critical to ensuring that your financial affairs and assets are managed in the event you are unable to manage these things on your own. The powers granted by the principal to the agent in a POA can be very specific or broad depending on need or goals of the principal.
A power of attorney may give the designated agent the right to do almost any legal act that the principal could do, such as paying bills, selling property, signing documents or contracts, initiating or defending lawsuits, managing a small business, creating trusts, and/or making gifts. With any type of power of attorney, you have the right to make changes to your agent's authority at any time, so long as you are not incapacitated.
Types of Power of Attorney
There are a few common types of power of attorney documents. A limited power of attorney gives the agent authority to conduct only a specific act, such as completing the transaction of selling property.
A general power of attorney gives the agent the authority to perform any legal act on behalf of the principal, and must include a list of all the activities the agent is authorized to perform, among other necessary terms.
A durable power of attorney is the most common type of POA because it is the only one that can remain in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated and can be either specific or broad in the powers granted to the agent.
Requirements of a Power of Attorney
A power of attorney in Florida requires the signature of the principal, two witnesses to the principal's signature, and a notary acknowledgment of the principal's signature. If a power of attorney was properly created in another state, it may be used in Florida but it will be subject to Florida's state laws and the agent may act only as authorized by Florida law.
As with any other legal document, using a DIY or pre-printed power of attorney is risky and you should always consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your specific goals and all legal requirements are met.
If you have any questions about creating a power of attorney in Florida, or about any other estate planning tools, please contact me today!