We all hope that we won’t need to designate a power of attorney, or have to become a power of attorney for a loved one who needs help. In the state of Florida, like most other states, a power of attorney is a legal document in which you designate someone to act on your behalf, or when you are given power of attorney to act on someone else’s behalf. In Florida, a power of attorney must be signed before two witnesses and a notary public to be considered a legal, binding document.
A power of attorney ends if the person it represents becomes incapacitated. That’s when a special kind of power of attorney, known as a durable power of attorney, is more appropriate, because it remains intact, or “durable,” even if a person suffers mental incapacity in the future.
A durable power of attorney is therefore the most important estate planning document a senior citizen can possess. A durable power of attorney can, in additional to handling all financial decisions, authorize medical care. That includes consent to proceed with or terminate all medical and surgical procedures on your behalf, including an agreement that falls under the Life-Prolonging Procedures Act of Florida. Again, a durable power of attorney lets someone act on your behalf if you cannot due to mental incapacity.
In 2011, the state made some changes to its power of attorney law. The changes gave a durable power of attorney signed after Oct. 1 of that year immediate power. That means once the power of attorney is signed, it goes into effect immediately and the person designated can exercise those powers. Incapacity of the person involved is not required. A springing power of attorney, or one that “springs” into action once a person becomes incapacitated, is no longer valid.
Include a durable power of attorney in your estate plan if you are getting older. We all hope it’s not needed, but you shouldn’t take that chance if you want to protect yourself and your family. See an experienced estate planning attorney for guidance in this complicated, yet necessary legal document.
Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.