Estate planning has consequences far beyond gift-giving and the eventual distribution of inheritances. For many Floridians, a comprehensive estate plan provides a central resource to make important decisions and enact critical powers of attorney—powers of attorney that can protect their health, their wealth, and their families against uncertainty, both in life and in death.
Senior citizens need a power of attorney for many elder law issues in Sun City Center, such as someone acting on their behalf for signing documents, handling finances and investments, and other matters.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney, or POA, is a specific authority delegated to a third party. This third party is referred to as an agent or an attorney-in-fact. An individual, known as the principal, authorizes an agent to make certain decisions or perform transactions on their behalf.
In Florida, the POA is active as soon as you sign it, so you better make sure you trust the person you name as your attorney-in-fact!
How Does a Power of Attorney Work?
The power of attorney is a legal arrangement that delegates your powers to make legal and financial decisions to another person or persons of your choice. Under most circumstances, it will only be recognized if it meets certain requirements under Florida law. If a power of attorney is executed in accordance with Florida law, then it will need to be presented to the appropriate institution (bank, financial company, law firm, etc.) in order to be accepted for use. For example, a bank may refuse to fulfill an agent’s requests until the attorney-in-fact (the person nominated in the power of attorey) until presented to and reviewed by the bank's legal department. Once the power of attorney has been approved by the legal department, the agent can typically resolve their parent’s affairs as if they were present.
The Different Types of POA
Florida recognizes many different powers of attorney, some of which are executed for specific purposes, such as the sale of an automobile or the enactment of certain financial transactions.
However, Sun City Center residents seeking to protect their elderly parents from abuse or incapacity typically establish some or all of the following powers of attorney:
- Durable power of attorney. The durable power of attorney remains active even if the principal is incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney can be either general or specific. They may delegate authority to make financial decisions or health care decisions. A durable power of attorney is only valid if the POA document includes precise language. This is the document we is in almost all estate plans in Florida.
- General power of attorney. This document delegates the agent's authority in a wide range of matters, including real estate transactions and investment decisions. If the document is not "durable," it does not survive your incapacity.
- Limited power of attorney. This allows the agent broad authority for a limited and pre-specified period of time. If, for example, you were leaving the country and were selling a land at the same time, you could give someone a limited power of attorney to handle the sale and closing of that property.
- Springing power of attorney. Only if the principal becomes incapacitated does a springing power of attorney take effect. However, Florida no longer recognizes this type of POA.
Why Aging Parents Need a Power of Attorney in Sun City Center
While few people wish to imagine their own incapacity, life is full of uncertainty—accidents happen, and age-related illnesses can strike. Enacting powers of attorney provides older adults with an unprecedented opportunity to retain limited control over their affairs, even while incapacitated.
When Should a Power of Attorney Be Set?
Every adult should establish certain powers of attorney. In practice, though, many Sun City Center residents in Florida delay delegating powers of attorney until they approach or exceed retirement age. However, senior citizens can’t afford to wait. Powers of attorney only protect the principal when they can make an informed decision. Florida, like most other states, doesn’t permit the execution of a POA if the principal is incapacitated.
Steps to Set Up a Power of Attorney for My Elderly Parent
Every state sets its own requirements for powers of attorney. In Florida, a power of attorney is typically executed by following these steps:
- Determining that you need a power of attorney (you do!)
- Nominating a trusted agent to help you - and alternates to that agent.
- Asking your estate planning/elder law attorney to create your durable power of attorney.
- Signing the form in front of two witnesses and a notary.
- Give a copy of the power of attorney to your trusted agent.
- Update your power of attorney about every 10 years.
If a power of attorney is improperly executed, it may be found invalid by the court holding jurisdiction over the principal’s affairs or the principal’s estate.
When Does a POA End?
Every power of attorney is different, and many can be conditioned to end at a certain time or after the fulfillment of a specified action, although it usually ends upon your death. Your Sun City Center estate planning attorney could help you determine what powers of attorney are best suited for your family’s unique needs and circumstances.
Contact Our Sun City Center Estate Planning Attorney for a Consult
Finding the right Sun City Center elder law attorney may seem challenging at first, but it's an important first step, and you only need to schedule an initial consultation. This meeting gives you an opportunity to explain your situation, discuss specific needs, and ask about their strategies for securing your future.