A power of attorney, or POA, can be a useful tool that allows you to engage in financial transactions when you can't be present to sign documents, or someone else to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
It's a good idea to take the time you need to understand your rights and responsibilities specific to both financial and healthcare powers of attorney in Florida.
Taking the initiative to address these issues before the need for such decision-making assistance arises can be of great help in the future.
Understanding powers of attorney
If you live in Florida or are engaging in important financial transactions in the state, it is best to have a power of attorney that is created under Florida law.
A power of attorney created under the law of another state should be accepted in Florida, but you are more likely to run into problems with an out-of-state form that is not familiar to the person you need to accept it.
In any discussion of power of attorney requirements in Florida, it will help to know some basic terms. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person, called an "agent," the authority to act on behalf of another individual, called the "principal." Some other helpful terms are:
- General power of attorney. A POA that gives the agent a broad range of powers to conduct all types of financial transactions.
- Limited or special power of attorney. A POA that limits the authority of the agent to a single transaction, certain types of transactions, or to a certain period of time.
- Durable power of attorney. A power of attorney that is not terminated by the principal's incapacity.
- Springing power of attorney. A power of attorney that does not become effective unless and until the principal becomes incapacitated.
- Incapacity or incapacitated. This is defined by Florida law as: "The inability of an individual to take those actions necessary to obtain, administer, and dispose of real and personal property, intangible property, business property, benefits, and income."
The financial power of attorney requirements in Florida are found in the Florida Power of Attorney Act, which begins with Section 709.2101 of the Florida Statutes. Unlike many other states, Florida does not allow a springing power of attorney and does not provide an authorized form for a financial power of attorney. The lack of an approved form makes obtaining a power of attorney in Florida more difficult than in many other states.
Florida law says very little about the content of a power of attorney. It does say that if you want to create a durable power of attorney it should include the following sentence: "This durable power of attorney is not terminated by subsequent incapacity of the principal except as provided in Chapter 709, Florida Statutes."
Under Florida law, your agent must be either a person who is at least 18 years of age or a financial institution that has "trust powers," a place of business in Florida, and is authorized to conduct trust business in Florida.
Your agent should be someone you trust will act in your best interest, and who has the ability to make sound financial decisions for you.
In order to be effective, a Florida power of attorney must be signed by the principal and by two witnesses, and be notarized.
In the event the principal is physically unable to sign, the notary public may sign the principal's name on the document.
Designation of health care surrogate
What is called a healthcare power of attorney or medical power of attorney in many states is called a Designation of Health Care Surrogate in Florida.
Laws relating to designating a health care surrogate are located in Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes, with an approved form found in Section 765.203.