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What is a Power of Attorney?

By Howard C. Stross
March 03, 2014

A power of attorney is a powerful legal document. The person signing the document is called the principal. In the document, the principal is delegating authority to an agent to act on the principal’s behalf.

When is a Power of Attorney effective?

In Florida, a power of attorney signed after October 1, 2011 is effective immediately. This means that you do not have to be incapacitated for your agent to act on your behalf. This can be helpful if you are out of town for an extended period of time and you want someone to pay bills or otherwise handle your affairs.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

When a power of attorney is durable that simply means it continues to work after the principal becomes incapacitated. If you are signing a power of attorney as part of your estate planning documents, it is likely that you are signing a durable power of attorney.

Can my agent sell my house?

Maybe. The language in the power of attorney controls what actions the agent can or cannot do. Depending on the language, the agent may be able to sell your home, lease your home to someone else, sell your car, access your bank accounts, sign contracts, or apply for Medicaid benefits on your behalf. A general power of attorney can give the agent the right to do almost anything the principal can do, including create trusts or make gifts.

Can a Power of Attorney avoid a Guardianship?

Maybe. If someone signs a durable power of attorney and later becomes incapacitated, it may not be necessary for the court to appoint a guardian because the agent already has the authority to act for the principal.

The Florida Power of Attorney Act was revised October 1, 2011

This article is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. The Florida Power of Attorney Act was revised effective October 1, 2011. If you have questions about a power of attorney that was signed before the change in law, you should have an estate planning attorney review it.

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