Which Power of Attorney Is Right for You?

It’s recommended that your comprehensive estate plan include at least one power of attorney. But, there are several documents that include “power of attorney” in the title. Legal documents that have similar names may have very different purposes and consequences. It’s important to know a little about powers of attorney to make sure you choose the right one for you.

Florida Power of Attorney Law.

The basic power of attorney involves the person signing the document (the “principal”) and the person being given power to act (the “agent”). The agent presents the power of attorney to a third party, which can be a bank, financial institution, or anyone that the agent has dealings with on behalf of the principal. Under current law, a power of attorney must specifically state the powers granted to the agent.

The Limited Power of Attorney.

The principal may give an agent the power to act in a specific, limited way. For example, the principal may sign a power of attorney granting the agent the authority to sign documents related to a real estate transaction, but nothing else.

Using a General Power of Attorney.

As with all powers of attorney, you’ll give an agent power to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. The power granted is broad, though, and not limited to a specific act. For example, you may use a general power of attorney to take care of matters while you are out of town for a short time. An agent might sign documents, handle negotiations, or make decisions for you while you are gone.

However, there’s a big disadvantage to using a general power of attorney: The agent’s power ends if you become incapacitated.

Consider a Durable Power of Attorney Instead.

One little word – “durable” – makes a huge difference here. Attorneys don’t just add “durable” to the title so the document sounds more official or serious. There’s a real impact on how, and when, the agent may act.

A durable power of attorney contains the following statement or similar language:

  • “This durable power of attorney is not terminated by subsequent incapacity of the principal except as provided in chapter 709, Florida statutes.”

A durable power of attorney becomes effective when it is signed by the principal. Unlike the general power of attorney, though, its powers continue after the principal’s incapacity.

Agent or Surrogate?

Although a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can be used by an agent, another document is preferred by medical providers: The Health Care Surrogate Designation. As with a power of attorney, a surrogate is named to make decisions for the principal. However, the surrogate’s authority is limited to decisions related to medical treatment. Also, the surrogate’s authority does not begin until at least one physician determines that the principal is incapacitated.

Learn More About Powers of Attorney.

A power of attorney is a powerful legal document. You can review your options while discussing your estate plan with your estate planning attorney.

As a Florida attorney board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates, Attorney John Mangan assists clients with estate planning questions, including those involving powers of attorney. To schedule an appointment, call us at 772-324-9050 or fill out our Contact Form. Our office is conveniently located in Palm City, Florida. We also help clients throughout Florida, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.