A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which a person, the “principal” gives another person, the “agent,” the authority to act on the principal’s behalf in certain circumstances. These circumstances can be narrow or broad, depending on the way the document is written.
The Power of Attorney is created to perform almost any legal act that the principal cannot do, such as sell a car or home, access bank accounts, or make health care decisions. There are three kinds of POAs in Florida:
- Limited Power of Attorney gives the agent authority to conduct only a specific act.
- General Power of Attorney gives the agent a much broader authority, but there must be a list of the acts the agent is entitled to perform in the document.
- Durable Power of Attorney remains in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated. This is not the case with the other two forms. There must be specific language in the document stating that the power of attorney will continue if the principal becomes incapacitated. Most POAs in the state of Florida are Durable POAs.
A Springing Power of Attorney becomes effective once the principle becomes incapacitated, as deemed by a physician. Florida no longer allows for them to be created, but if the POA was written before September 30, 2011, it is still effective.
POAs should be drawn up by an attorney. Pre-printed forms are likely to fail in providing the desired protection because every principal’s needs are different.
If the agent is unsure of whether they are authorized to perform a specific act, they should check with an attorney to review the POA. If the agent performs an act they are not legally entitled to perform, they can be punished both civilly and criminally.
Under a Power of Attorney, an agent may only act on the principal’s behalf while the principal is still alive.
Source: Florida Bar
*Photo courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com