Power of Attorney


What is a power of attorney?


A power of attorney is a legal document where one person delegates (gives) legal authority to another to handle his or her financial affairs.


What do the words in a power of attorney mean?  For example, principal, attorney-in- fact, agent, durable power of attorney.


Consider this example:
1.    Betty executes (or signs or gives) a durable power of attorney to her son, Brian. 
2.    Betty is the principal. She is the person who is giving the power to the other person.
3.    Brian is the attorney-in-fact. Attorney-in-fact refers to the person who is being appointed to serve as power of attorney. 
4.    Brian is also the agent.  Agent is just another word for attorney-in-fact; an attorney-in-fact and an agent are the same thing.
5.    A durable power of attorney means Brian can continue to use the power of attorney even if the principal (Betty) becomes incompetent (for example, through a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia).  He does not have to get letter from Berry’s doctor stating she is incompetent in order to use the durable power of attorney.

 


May I use the power of attorney after the person’s death to take care of financial matters?


No.  The authority under the power of attorney ends upon the death of the principal. After the death of the principal, the personal representative is the proper person to make decisions.


What is a medical power of attorney?


A medical power of attorney is another name for a healthcare surrogate.  This document is also called a medical proxy.  A medical power of attorney (or healthcare surrogate) is a document where you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you, if you are unable to make the decisions yourself.  An example would be if you have been rendered unconscious in an automobile accident.  The person you have appointed as your medical power of attorney (or healthcare surrogate) will make medical decisions for you (surgery, medications, etc.).  If your family or relatives disagree about your care, the medical staff will take their instructions from the person you appoint.  See the FAQ under the tab “Healthcare Surrogate.”

 


Does a power of attorney have to be recorded?


Generally, no.  However, if you are using the power of attorney to buy or sell property, the power of attorney should be recorded.  If you are going to use a power of attorney for financial transactions with a bank or investment firm, the power of attorney should be recorded.

 


How much does a power of attorney cost?


Attorneys vary widely in what they charge for a power of attorney, so it is wise to call several attorneys before choosing one. Fees can range from $125 to $500.  Many attorneys have free consultations where they explain the uses (and abuses) of a power of attorney.

 


What is a “springing” power of attorney?


A “springing” power of attorney does not go into effect unless and until the principal becomes incapacitated. Springing power of attorneys are no longer valid under Florida law. All powers of attorney are effective immediately upon signing, unless the power of attorney was signed before October 1, 2011.  Springing powers of attorney signed before October 1, 2011 are grandfathered in and remain valid, regardless of whether the principal has yet become incapacitated.  

 


What is a “limited power of attorney”?


A “limited power of attorney” gives the agent authority to conduct a specific act, for example, buying or selling a piece of real property or transferring title to a vehicle.  The agent’s powers are limited.  If the agent has a limited power of attorney to sell a piece of property, the agent cannot write checks on the principal’s bank account or transfer ownership of any other property that belongs to the principal. (Remember to refer to the definitions listed above for definitions of the words principal and agent).

 


Do I need to sign a power of attorney in front of a notary?


A power of attorney needs to be signed in front of two witnesses and a notary.   Everyone must sign in the presence of each other.  The notary may be one of the witnesses.

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JACKSONVILLE WILLS ON WHEELS 

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   CYNTHIA NICHOLS, ATTORNEY