Setting up Your Power of Attorney
Gainesville lawyers at Shigo Law, P.A. provide expert assistance for establishing a durable power of attorney for your finances and medical needs.
It can be hard to consider the possibility of incapacitation, but it eventually becomes a reality either through old age or an accident of some sort. When this time comes, you need to have a mechanism in place for someone to handle your affairs for you.
This is, in a nutshell, the purpose of a Power of Attorney, or rather a “…legal document delegating authority from one person to another” according to a definition from the Florida Bar. The “principal,” or the person making the document, appoints an “agent” to conduct business on their behalf should they be unable.
Some uses of a Power of Attorney include:
- Giving another person the right to sell a car, house or other property on behalf of the principal;
- Providing access to bank accounts;
- Granting authority to sign contracts on behalf of the principal;
- Granting authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the principal;
- Handling financial transactions on behalf of the principal; and
- Creating trusts and make gifts on behalf of the principal.
Essentially, a Power of Attorney can be set up for nearly any legal act the principal would like someone else to handle. They can be established for a specific act like selling a house in another state (Limited Power of Attorney), or it can be more general in nature and grant broad powers to the agent. A list of specific activities will still need to be included though.
And while an agent can have the authority to do a wide variety of things by way of a Power of Attorney, there are certain things Florida law prohibits agents from doing. Examples include signing witness affidavits, voting, or performing business services under the principal's name. The agent also has a responsibility to carry out their duties as outlined in the document.
If the agent isn't sure whether something is permissible or not, they should speak with a lawyer.
Types of Power of Attorney
There are essentially two purposes of a Power of Attorney – financial and medical.
A financial Power of Attorney grants authority to the agent to handle financial matters on behalf of the principal. If someone is incapacitated, they need to have someone appointed to handle important business like paying bills, managing investments and so on.
A medical Power of Attorney on the other hand grants authority to the agent to oversee your medical care and make any required decisions should you be unable to handle these matters yourself. The agent will be responsible for coordinating with doctors and other healthcare providers. Your agent will be legally obligated to follow your wishes to the best of their knowledge and ability.
Our firm, as well as the Florida Bar, recommend you have both a financial and medical Power of Attorney to ensure all of your affairs will be handled properly. Although you can combine the two into one document, it is recommended you separate them to make things easier for your agent and loved ones. It's also recommended that you appoint the same agent for both the medical and financial Power of Attorney unless you are absolutely certain the two individuals can easily work together.
When setting up your Power of Attorney, you should also make sure it is “durable,” meaning it will remain in force after your mental or physical incapacitation.
Why you should enlist a lawyer to draft your Power of Attorney
If you do a quick search for Power of Attorney online, you should be able to easily find templates for drafting the document yourself. According to the Florida Bar, all you need to make your Power of Attorney valid under state law is the signature of the principal, two witnesses and a notary. While this may seem like an easy way of establishing a Power of Attorney, it is fraught with risk. Banks and healthcare providers may not accept it and it may not provide the level of protection you're looking for.
A lawyer will be able to draft a Power of Attorney for your specific circumstances and make sure it includes all of the elements necessary for ensuring your affairs are handled the way you want them to be.
Thomas and Lynne Shigo, of the Shigo Law Firm, P.A. in Gainesville and Ocala, have extensive experience helping individuals prepare a Power of Attorney and other critical estate planning tasks. Not having a Power of Attorney means your spouse or loved one will need to obtain authority from the court in the event you're unable to handle your own affairs. This, of course, puts undue stress on your loved one at a time when they're least able to handle it.
Don't delay in establishing your financial and medical Power of Attorney. Contact our offices by calling (352) 338-1988 in Gainesville or (352) 369-3476 in Ocala to schedule an appointment today.