Creating a power of attorney is an important step in Florida estate planning. This legal document allows one person, called the agent or attorney-in-fact, to make decisions for another person, known as the principal, regarding financial, legal, and healthcare matters. Many consider it to be one of the most important decisions you will make because a power of attorney can help during difficult times.
In Florida, there are two main types of power of attorney: durable and general. Knowing the differences between them is important when creating your estate plan, especially when you’re choosing someone to make decisions for you.
What is the Difference Between a Durable POA and a General POA in Florida?
The main difference between the types of POAs in Florida is how long they last and how much power they have, especially when the principal can’t make decisions anymore. Normally, a general POA starts working as soon as it’s signed, unless it’s a springing power of attorney that only starts if something specific happens, such as when the principal can’t make their own decisions.
A general power of attorney allows an agent to make decisions for the principal in areas like healthcare, finances, or legal decisions. However, if the principal becomes unable to make decisions, this type of power of attorney becomes invalid.
On the other hand, a durable power of attorney in Florida remains effective even if the principal becomes unable to make decisions on their own. This gives the agent the ability to continue making decisions on behalf of the principal even when they are not able to express their wishes.
The durability function is important to those who wish to add an extra layer of protection to their estate plan by having someone act in their best interests when they are unable to.
How Does the Decision-Making Authority Differ Between the Two?
A durable power of attorney is a powerful legal tool that expands the agent’s power to act on behalf of the principal, even in times of incapacity. This expanded power allows the designated agent to smoothly handle difficult financial, legal, and healthcare issues.
A general power of attorney is limited if the principal is unable to make decisions. At that point, this type of power of attorney will lose its authority, and the agent will no longer be able to make decisions for the principal. This can greatly affect the flow of affairs and harm the estate. The principal will no longer have a trusted person watching over their estate matters. The estate could face stiff consequences such as:
- Loss of ability to make decisions.
- Trouble handling important matters.
- Problems with making decisions on time.
- Money issues.
- Legal problems.
- Healthcare complications.
- Problems with estate planning.
The strength of a durable power of attorney means it keeps working even if the person can’t make decisions. It gives more control to the trusted person helping, even in tough times, making sure decisions stay in line with what the person wants and needs. This allows for consistent decision-making and doesn’t allow health issues to stop the agent from acting in the principal’s best interests.
Specific Powers Granted
In Florida estate planning, both durable and general powers of attorney have similar abilities. They can handle matters such as managing money, buying or selling property, paying bills, making healthcare choices, and dealing with legal matters. They can make important medical decisions that may impact the life of the principal, which is why it is important to carefully consider your options when choosing an agent.
Here are a few of the duties a power of attorney can handle:
- Pay bills, handle bank accounts, and manage investments.
- Buy or sell real estate.
- Handle healthcare decisions and medical treatments.
- Deal with legal documents and sign contracts.
- Represent them in important matters.
When is a Durable Power of Attorney Important?
- To plan in case you can’t make decisions due to an accident or sudden illness.
- To pick someone you trust to handle your healthcare, family, business, and money when you can’t do it yourself.
- To prepare for a big medical treatment or travel plans.
- When you get diagnosed with a disease that might get worse over time.
Which Type of POA Is Best For You?
You may be wondering which type is best for your situation. Many people choose a durable power of attorney because they may not be able to make their own decisions in the future.
This choice provides many benefits for those wanting to protect their estate in any situation. People can plan for potential medical emergencies.
Picking the right power of attorney assures people that their matters will be carefully managed, even in tough situations. Keeping decision-making power during incapacity reduces uncertainties and helps carry out the person’s wishes more smoothly.
However, some people may have reasons for not choosing a durable power of attorney. For example, they may not feel comfortable giving a lot of power to someone else, even if it’s someone they trust. They might prefer controlling everything themselves instead of giving that authority to someone else.
Also, they might have worries about trusting the person they pick as their agent. They may hesitate to get a durable power of attorney if they have doubts about whether the agent will act in their best interests. Abuse of power is a concern even though the agent has a legal duty to that person.
How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
Understanding the different types of powers of attorney in Florida can be tough. An estate planning attorney can walk you through the process and make sure that you make the right choices for your situation. They can help you create legal documents that are made to your needs.
An attorney will also make sure that your plan follows Florida laws and will cover issues such as money and healthcare decisions, medical choices, and property protection.
Deciding whether to use a durable or general power of attorney is an important step for a Florida estate plan. Knowing the differences between these types will help you make the best choice for you and your family.
The person you choose to be your agent will have the power to make life-changing decisions for you. Getting advice from an estate planning lawyer can help create a strong and customized power of attorney document that works well with your estate plan. This protects your interests and keeps decision-making going, especially if you can’t make decisions yourself.