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The Florida Bar - Family Law Section
The Florida Bar

Powers of Attorney

Your Durable Power of Attorney is an estate planning tool that allows you to appoint who will handle your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity, however, because the Durable Power of Attorney must become effective when it signed, it is also one of the most powerful documents of your estate plan. The Durable Power of Attorney allows the person you nominate (your agent) to step into your shoes and act as you from the moment it is signed; it does not require that you be incapacitated before it becomes effective. Once you sign the Durable Power of Attorney, your agent has the authority to do most everything you can do yourself with the exception of only a few things. There are certain special powers that you must specifically grant to your agent by initialing next to those powers on the document. The thought of granting someone that much power over your personal affairs may initially seem frightening, but a properly executed Durable Power of Attorney very important because without it, your loved ones are left to have to file a guardianship proceeding to obtain the authority to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. With the Durable Power of Attorney, your agent will be able to ensure your long term care is provided for and that your estate planning goals are carried out.

Many people believe that simply adding their children or others to their accounts as owners to allow them access to those accounts in the event of an emergency renders a Durable Power of Attorney unnecessary. However, did you know that making your child or most anyone else (with the exception of a spouse in certain circumstances) an owner of your accounts subjects your accounts to the claims of their creditors? This means that if the co-owner of your account has a car accident that is his or her fault, and a judgment is entered against the co-owner, the person who obtained the judgment can take the funds from your account to pay it. Because the Durable Power of Attorney does not create an ownership interest, it does not subject your account to the claims of your agent’s creditors.

Ms. Hancock will explain in detail the importance of this document and the powers granted by it. If you already have a Durable Power of Attorney that was executed before October 1, 2011, it likely needs to be updated due to substantial changes to Florida law that became effective in 2011. Ms. Hancock is happy to review your current Durable Power of Attorney at your free estate planning consultation.

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