A power of attorney is a legal document in which a person creating it (referred to as the “principal”) delegates authority for legal decisions to be made by another (referred to as the “agent”). The power of attorney can encompass a wide range of acts to be delegated to the agent or only enable the agent to perform certain acts on behalf of the principal. A general power of attorney often provides broad powers to an agent to act on the principal’s behalf, whereas a limited power of attorney only permits the agent to handle specific acts on behalf of the principal.
It is possible to create a power of attorney to enable the agent to sell the principal’s real property (such as a house) or personal property (such as a car). An agent can be provided the authority to sign contacts and legal documents on behalf of the principal, access the principal’s banking and investment accounts, and make decisions with respect to the person’s health care. A power of attorney can even be drawn up for any act that the principal could engage in to be performed by the agent instead, which could involve gifting assets to beneficiaries or establishing trusts.
A power of attorney is no longer effective at the principal’s incapacity unless it is a durable. That is, a durable power of attorney continues to remain in effect when the principal is determined to be incapacitated; however, there must be special language within the power of attorney providing for the agent’s powers to remain in effect upon the principal’s incapacity.
In order for a power of attorney to be properly executed and valid according to Florida law: (1) the principal has to sign the document; (2) there must be two witnesses to the principal’s signature; and (3) the principal’s signature has to be acknowledged by a notary.
There is no one size fits all power of attorney because each person’s circumstances are different, and pre-printed forms risk the principal providing an agent with the authority that the principal does not prefer. A power of attorney should be drafted by a lawyer to adequately address the specific circumstances of the person.