The Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney is probably the single most important document in a comprehensive estate plan. A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) allows you to appoint an agent, such as a trusted family member or friend, to manage specific legal and financial abilities.
A Power of Attorney is considered “durable” if it can survive a subsequent incapacity. This means that as long as a Durable Power of Attorney is signed when someone is of sound mind, the power conferred in the document will remain valid even if that person later becomes incapacitated due to accident or illness. In Florida, the Power of Attorney must contain specific legal language to be “Durable” so it’s important your documents are drafted by an attorney who regularly handles these matters.
There are many ways that a Power of Attorney can be drafted. Some are very specific in scope, such as the ability to buy or sell a certain piece of real estate. The Durable Power of Attorney that is drafted as part of a comprehensive estate plan is typically much more broad in nature and grants a wide-range of powers.
Signing a Power of Attorney can be a scary thing. Some clients may be concerned about losing independence or are fearful their agent may act in a way that is contrary to their wishes. It is absolutely imperative to choose your agent wisely. While precautions can be put in place to prevent abuse, your agent will have significant power. It’s important to discuss these concerns with your attorney. A Power of Attorney can be revoked, so long as the person signing the document is considered competent to do so.
Since illness, accident, or injury can strike at any time, I believe the Durable Power of Attorney is an essential part of a comprehensive estate plan, regardless of age or financial status. However, a Durable Power of Attorney is especially important for older clients or those with medical concerns. It is important that a Durable Power of Attorney be prepared before a person starts having memory problems or trouble handling certain aspects of their life.
If a person becomes incapacitated or incompetent without proper documents in place, friends and family will not be able to make important financial decisions, pay bills, access benefits, request governmental assistance, sell or manage assets and other critical tasks without going through a formal guardianship process which can be very expensive and difficult on families.
The Power of Attorney laws changed significantly in Florida in 2011 and new documents are now much more complicated. If you have an older Power of Attorney or a DIY form, it’s time for an update. Contact our office today to get started.