What Does a Financial Power of Attorney Actually Let You Do in Florida?

The power of attorney is an important part of many Floridians’ estate plans. Even if you haven’t gotten around to drafting your own estate plan, you’ve probably heard those words before. Far too often, unfortunately, you might hear those words on the news in connection with someone who has abused their power of attorney powers (the agent) and taken advantage of someone else (the principal). 

The exact authorities granted to an agent depends on the type of power of attorney granted by the principal. The most common type of power of attorney in Florida is the general (financial) power of attorney. Agents named in a Florida general power of attorney often have the authority to, on behalf of the principal: 

  • Engage in property closings and other real estate transactions;
  • Access the principal’s bank and investment accounts;
  • Pay the principal’s bills; and/or
  • Sign legally binding contracts. 

Agents named in a Florida general power of attorney basically have whatever authority the power of attorney gives them. Some powers, like the ability to engage in banking or investment transactions, may be referred to generally in the power of attorney document. In other words, those duties may refer to a specific Florida statute. If the provision in the power of attorney is correctly worded, the agent has the powers specifically mentioned in the statute.

Most others, however, require express permission for the agent to take them on. You must clearly and unambiguously give your agent the following powers for your power of attorney to be effective:

  • Create, amend, modify, revoke, or terminate a living trust;
  • Change or create a beneficiary designation;
  • Change or create specific rights of survivorship;
  • Make/transfer a gift;
  • Disclaim power of appointment or any property; or
  • Waive the right of the principal to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity (including the survivor benefit of a retirement plan).

Durable vs. Special/Limited

Another way to classify powers of attorney in Florida is by their durability. A durable power of attorney, which is the default option for Floridians, becomes effective as soon as it is signed and continues even if the principal loses mental capacity. Conversely, a limited or special power of attorney only goes into effect for a specified period of time. Many people use limited powers of attorney if they go on an overseas vacation.

Note: Florida no longer offers springing powers of attorney. This type of power of attorney only goes into effect when the principal loses capacity. Fortunately, many other types of estate planning documents can fill this void in your plan. 

Leave Nothing to Chance

Plenty of websites offer template power of attorney forms for Florida estate planners. The allure of lower costs is powerful, but having a legal document that doesn’t completely adhere to your wishes could be the most expensive mistake you’ll ever make. And, a power of attorney is only good while you are alive! Alvarez Law Group is here to make sure that the proper estate planning documents are drafted. Contact us today to get caring and effective legal representation for your estate planning needs.

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