What activities are permitted by an attorney-in-fact?
An attorney-in-fact may perform only those acts specified in the Power of Attorney. If an attorney-in-fact is unsure whether he or she is authorized to do a particular act, the attorney-in-fact should consult the lawyer who prepared the document or other legal counsel.
May an attorney-in-fact sell the principal’s home?
Yes. If the Power of Attorney authorizes the sale of the principal’s homestead, the attorney-in-fact may sell it. If the principal is married, however, the attorney-in-fact must obtain the authorization of the spouse.
What may an attorney-in-fact not do on behalf of a principal?
There are a few actions that an attorney-in-fact is prohibited from doing even if the Power of Attorney states that the action is authorized. An attorney-in-fact, unless also a licensed member of The Florida Bar, may not practice law in Florida. An attorney-in-fact may not sign a document stating that the principal has knowledge of certain facts. For example, if the principal was a witness to a car accident, the attorney-in-fact may not sign an affidavit stating what the principal saw or heard. An attorney-in-fact may not vote in a public election on behalf of the principal. An attorney-in-fact may not create or revoke a Will or Codicil for the principal. If the principal was under contract to perform a personal service (i.e., to paint a portrait or provide care services), the attorney-in-fact is not authorized to do these things in the place of the principal. Likewise, if someone had appointed the principal to be Trustee of a Trust or if the Court appointed the principal to be a guardian or conservator, the attorney-in-fact may not take over these responsibilities based solely on the authority of a Power of Attorney.
What are the responsibilities of an attorney-in-fact?
While the Power of Attorney gives the attorney-in-fact authority to act on behalf of the principal, an attorney-in-fact is not obligated to serve. An attorney-in-fact may have a moral or other obligation to take on the responsibilities associated with the Power of Attorney, but the Power of Attorney does not create an obligation to assume the duties. However, once an attorney-in-fact takes on a responsibility, he or she has a duty to act prudently. (See Financial Management and the Liability of an Attorney-in-fact).
Is there a certain code of conduct for attorneys-in-fact?
Yes. Attorneys-in-fact must meet a certain standard of care when performing their duties. An attorney-in-fact is looked upon as a “fiduciary” under the law. A fiduciary relationship is one of trust. If the attorney-in-fact violates this trust, the law may punish the attorney-in-fact both civilly (by ordering the payment of restitution and punishment money) and criminally (probation or jail). The standard of care that applies to attorneys-in-fact is discussed under Financial Management and the Liability of an Attorney-in-fact.
This is the second 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.