The Florida Bar defines a power of attorney as a legal document delegating authority from one person to another. In the document, the maker of the power of attorney (the “principal”) grants the right to act on the maker’s behalf as that person’s agent.
When granting these permissions to someone, there are several points to keep in mind.
- NOT ALL POAs ARE EQUAL!!! Be careful of documents that are not created by an Elder Law Attorney, as they may not include language that will be important in your time of crisis.
- POA / Power of Attorney / Attorney-in-Fact are equivalent and interchangeable terms.
- Florida’s POA is in effect IMMEDIATELY and remains in effect after a person loses capacity.
- Florida had a major update to the laws regarding POAs in 2011. This change involved adding “Super Powers”, which grant the agent the right to do very specific and powerful things such as change beneficiaries on a trust, open a safe deposit box, etc. These powers must be individually initialed to be effective.
- If your current documents were written prior to 2011, you should have them updated.
- It is recommended to review your entire Estate Plan every 5 years for personal updates and changes to the law.
- A Power of Attorney is immensely powerful. When choosing an agent, you should consider that they have the power to control your assets, finances, and legal matters. This should be someone you know and trust.
- If you aren’t sure who you can trust with such authority, consider a professional organization that is willing to act on your behalf when the need arises. These businesses are bound by licenses, insured and bonded. Several case management, guardianship and law firms have programs in order to assist in these areas.
How to correctly sign as Power of Attorney
When signing for someone as their agent (Power of Attorney), please keep in mind that the way you sign is especially important. The umbrella of liability can change depending on how you sign your name on the documents.
For instance, if you are to sign a document improperly, with just your simple name, the liability is on you personally, just as if you were signing for yourself. If you are to sign properly, however, the liability shifts to the person you are signing for.
The example below shows both the proper and improper way of signing.
Contact The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen if you have additional questions about correctly filling out Power of Attorney forms or would like your documents reviewed. You can give us a call or send an email using the contact form below.