David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

Clearing up power of attorney misconceptions

A power of attorney can be an important and powerful document. When people sign these documents, they are giving someone else control over their legal and financial decisions. This may seem like a risk, and that is why many in Florida hesitate to include a power of attorney in their estate plans. However, it is also an essential protection in case they become incapacitated and unable to manage their finances on their own.

Unfortunately, few people truly understand how a POA works. For example, many adult children believe they can ask an attorney to give them power of attorney when their parents are already suffering from dementia. This is impossible since any legal document requires the principal, that is the person executing it, to be mentally competent. This is why it is best to create an estate plan with a POA as early as possible.

Another misconception is the amount of control the agent has over the principal. The POA carries a legal restriction known as a fiduciary obligation, which means the agent must act only in the best interests of the principal or face legal consequences. Nevertheless, the choice of agent is critical and demands someone with integrity and trustworthiness.

There are numerous types of power of attorney, and a principal may be tempted to download a generic form from the internet. However, those forms may not meet Florida's POA requirements or be obsolete. It is also a good possibility that online forms do not use language that is strong enough to withstand any legal challenges that may arise. The most reliable information about a power of attorney typically come from an experienced estate planning attorney.

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