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What is a “Power of Attorney”?

A Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a powerful legal tool that allows an authorized person (often called the “POA” or simply the “Agent”) to make decisions on your behalf. You, the person assigning power of attorney, can determine exactly how much authority your POA is given. You can also specify what actions they are allowed to take. 

There are a variety of POA types, and the specifics will depend on the details within the documents. The three most common types of power of attorney are: 

  1. Durable: Regardless of your physical or mental state (whether you are incapacitated or not), the Durable POA gives the Agent a variety of authorizations. 
  2. Limited: A Limited POA allows your Agent to only make specific decisions that are described in the documents. With a Limited POA, if a certain action or choice is not described in the documents, the Agent is not legally authorized to take that action.
  3. General: This type gives the legal agent broad authority, but the general POA is limited to certain matters.

Why Would You Need a Power of Attorney?

POAs are useful for many reasons. 

If you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions, your Agent, designated in a Durable POA, can make important choices for medical service and financial planning, and take action to keep your affairs in order. For example, your assigned POA may be able to access your finances and ensure that your car loan, rent, utilities, etc., are paid while you are in the hospital. This would also prevent your family from having to go through a costly and time-consuming guardianship process. 

If you need assistance in a certain transaction, for convenience or otherwise, a Limited POA can be very helpful. Limited POAs are common in real estate transactions allowing your Agent to complete the closing on your behalf.

Finally, if you need or desire assistance with your day-to-day tasks, a General POA can be written to allow your Agent to file taxes, access financial accounts (often to pay for medical care), make investment decisions, and apply for public benefits, among many other powers. 

Power of Attorney: Formalities and Considerations

If you feel you or a loved one could benefit from a Power of Attorney, you should not trust a document or form found on the internet. Florida law requires POAs be executed with certain formalities. There are also, statutorily, some minimal qualifications for the Agents.

If these statutory requirements are not followed, the POA is ineffective. Over the years, we’ve seen many insufficient powers of attorneys cross our desk or in our inbox. Often, by the time the family learns of the inadequacy, it’s too late and the remedial measures necessary can be costly.

No matter which POA is used, your agent should be someone that you trust. When selecting your agent, you want to choose someone close to you that has a general understanding of your intent and wishes. You want to communicate to your agent your general goals and how you want your property to be administered.

Need a Power of Attorney?

A Power of attorney can be one of the most important components of a well-drafted estate plan or it can be just a valuable tool to assist you in your day-to-day life or with an important business transaction. It is important to consult a qualified attorney when establishing a Power of Attorney to ensure that it satisfies Florida’s power of attorney laws. If you are considering a Power of Attorney, contact Messina Law Group, P.A. to get the guidance you need.