A power of attorney is a legal document that lets you designate someone to handle your financial, legal and health care matters in the event you cannot. A power of attorney may be used if you are disabled due to illness or even simply are out of the country and unavailable. These documents are particularly useful for older Americans and those facing medical issues. In Florida, special rules and limitations apply when creating powers of attorney. Following these rules can pay dividends through empowering trusted friends or family to pay bills, tap retirement accounts, manage property and access bank accounts if you become incapacitated. Consult a financial advisor to discuss how you can use a power of attorney.
Power of Attorney Basics
A power of attorney names a person or legal entity as your agent or attorney-in-fact, giving them the ability to perform almost any legally binding action you could do yourself. This includes buying or selling real estate, opening financial accounts, cashing checks, entering contracts and making healthcare decisions.
Business owners use powers of attorney to keep operations running smoothly during travel or illnesses by delegating authority for partners or key employees to sign documents, make deals and handle payroll or personnel issues in their absence. Parents often use powers of attorney if deployed overseas so that another caretaker can act as a legal guardian or parent when the actual parents must be away for long periods.
Powers of attorney are particularly helpful when preparing for the challenges of getting older. Elderly people use durable powers of attorney to plan for future incapacity to balance checkbooks, pay bills online, withdraw money and handle Medicare or Social Security paperwork.
Florida Power of Attorney
Florida law allows several varieties of powers of attorney. These include general financial powers for handling money matters, limited powers specified for particular transactions like selling a home, durable powers remaining effective if you become mentally incapacitated, healthcare-focused versions for medical decisions, special powers tailored for business interests, and tax-oriented powers. You may use several of these to addressing diverse issues that could arise.
Florida prohibits one type of power of attorney in use in many other states. This is the springing durable power of attorney that only takes effect if you become mentally or physically incapacitated or are otherwise unable to manage your affairs. The prohibition against springing powers of attorney is one of the ways Florida does not follow the Uniform Power of Attorney Act model rules that many other states use. However, generally speaking, a power of attorney from another state will be recognized in Florida as long as it was properly executed.
How to Obtain Florida Power of Attorney
You have two major approaches you can use to create a legal Florida power of attorney:
- Hire an attorney to draft documents precisely meeting your requirements. Florida lawyers can provide appropriate forms, notarize documents, answer questions and store copies of signed documents. They can create financial powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney or both.
- Use free templates from online legal form sources and complete these yourself. This can save money but may have some limitations. For example, some downloadable generic forms may not have spaces for initials authorizing key sections as required under Florida law.
After you have created your power of attorney, it must be notarized. You can find a notary to do this at the law office if you used an attorney, or at many banks and other financial institutions. Once notarized, these documents are legally effective immediately. This gives your assigned agent powers to start acting in matters like paying bills, managing investments, buying or selling property, applying for government benefits and making health decisions.
Once drafted and notarized, provide signed copies of the documents to the financial institutions and medical facilities you want to recognize the paperwork. You may need to update a previously created and executed power of attorney if circumstances change.
Potential Power of Attorney Surprises
Be aware that power of attorney documents created before October 2011 may not meet current requirements in Florida. Among other issues, pre-2011 documents likely don’t address new provisions that call for separately initialing any clauses empowering agents to amend trusts, alter beneficiary statuses or change rights of survivorship.
Even recently created basic pre-printed forms may fail to satisfy Florida regulations or address specific needs. If there is anything unusual about your situation or you are uneasy about using a standard form, consider discussing the matter with an attorney. An attorney specializing in elder law probably can provide optimal protections.
With a power of attorney, you can give someone you trust the ability to handle your affairs when you cannot. Financial transactions such as buying or selling real estate or even paying bills may become difficult or impossible if you are disabled and have no valid power of attorney. In Florida, powers of attorney created in other states will likely work, but there are some differences, such as a prohibition against springing powers of attorney. You can create your own power of attorney using downloadable forms, but you may get better protection by hiring an attorney to write a custom document.
Estate Planning Tips
- A financial advisor could offer you personalized guidance about what a power of attorney can do for you. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- SmartAsset’s free guide to estate planning will introduce you to important concepts and key tasks involved in ensuring your legacy.
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