ABOUT THE POWER OF ATTORNEY What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document delegating authority from one person to another. In the document, the maker of the Power of Attorney grants the right to act on the maker’s behalf. What authority is granted depends on the specific language of the Power of Attorney. A person giving a Power of Attorney may make it very broad or may limit it to certain specific acts.
What are some uses of a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney may be used to give another the right to sell a car, home or other property. A Power of Attorney might be used to allow another to sign a contract, make health care decisions, handle financial transactions, or sign legal documents for the maker of the Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney may give others the right to do almost any legal act that the maker of the Power of Attorney could do.
Where may a person obtain a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is an important and powerful legal document. It should be drawn by a lawyer to meet the person’s specific circumstances. Pre-printed forms are often a disaster and may fail to provide the protection desired.
What is a “principal?”
The “principal” is the maker of the Power of Attorney – the person who is delegating authority to another.
What is an “attorney-in-fact?”
The “attorney-in-fact” is the recipient of the Power of Attorney – the party who is given the power to act on behalf of the principal. An “attorney-in-fact” is sometimes referred to as an “agent,” but not all “agents” are “attorneys-in-fact.” The term “attorney-in-fact” does not mean the person is a lawyer.
What is a “third party?”
As used in this pamphlet, a “third party” is a person or institution with whom the attorney-in-fact has dealings on behalf of the principal. Examples include a bank, a doctor, the buyer of property that the attorney-in-fact is selling for the principal, a broker, or anyone else with whom the attorney-in- fact must deal on behalf of the principal.
What is a “Limited Power of Attorney?”
A “Limited Power of Attorney” gives the attorney-in-fact authority to conduct a specific act. For example, a person might use a Limited Power of Attorney to sell a home in another state by delegating authority to another person to handle the transaction locally through a “limited power of attorney.” Such a Power could be “limited” to selling the home or to other specified acts.
What is a “General Power of Attorney?”
A “general” Power of Attorney typically gives the attorney-in- fact very broad powers to perform any legal act on behalf of the principal. Often a list of the types of activities the attorney- in-fact is authorized to perform is included in the document.
What is a “Durable Power of Attorney?”
Limited and general Powers of Attorney terminate if and when the principal becomes incapacitated. Because many people would like Powers of Attorney that may continue to be used upon their incapacity, Florida law provides for a (special) power known as a “Durable Power of Attorney.” A Durable Power of Attorney remains effective even if a person becomes incapacitated; however, there are certain exceptions specified in Florida law when a Durable Power of Attorney may not be used for an incapacitated principal. A Durable Power of Attorney must contain special wording that provides the power survives the incapacity of the principal. Most Powers of Attorney granted today are durable.
Must a person be competent to sign a Power of Attorney?
Yes. The principal must understand what he or she is signing at the time the document is signed. The principal must understand the effect of a Power of Attorney, to whom he or she is giving the Power of Attorney, and what property may be affected by the Power of Attorney.
Who may serve as an attorney-in-fact?
Any competent person 18 years of age or older may serve as an attorney-in-fact. Attorneys-in-fact should be chosen for reliability and trustworthiness. Certain financial institutions and not-for-profit corporations may also serve.
This is the first part of a seven part article on Florida Powers of Attorney Click to review the others . If you need help with a Florida Power of Attorney contact a Jacksonville Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.