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Power of Attorney Documents

What is a Power of Attorney, and Who Needs One?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which one individual names another to act on their behalf in the event of their incapacity, illness, injury, or absence. It is established to take effect upon the named event, and lies dormant until the event takes place.

Two main types of power of attorney documents are normally utilized, and every adult (person over the age of 18) should have BOTH of these types of power of attorney documents.

A health care surrogate designation (called a “patient advocate” in Michigan), is a medical power of attorney. It allows an individual to name another to make health care decisions for them in the event of their illness, injury, or incapacity. It can and is utilized in both life-threatening and non-life-threatening situations. It is not just a document designating who “pulls the plug” (a very common misconception) Most individuals who have a medical power of attorney have at least two other people named to act for them, just in case one of them isn’t available at the time needed. It is not necessary to name a spouse as your health care surrogate, if you are married, unless that is the person that you would prefer to choose. In Florida, it is especially crucial to have a health care surrogate designation in place, as Florida does not recognize the automatic right of ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL to make health care decisions for you if you cannot do so for yourself.

A durable power of attorney allows an individual to name another to take care of non-health care issues for them in the event of illness, injury, or incapacity (not determined by court). In Florida, a durable power of attorney is invalidated in the event of a court determination of incapacity, which is why a living trust can be a crucial protection. A durable power of attorney expires when you do (ends at death), so the “attorney-in-fact” (designated representative) cannot utilize a power of attorney document to distribute or control assets after a death occurs.

Other types of limited power of attorney documents can be created to name an individual to act for you in a certain, limited, situation. These are commonly used in real estate transactions where one individual cannot be present at a closing, and another is designated to act for them. These types of power of attorney documents expire after the stated purpose.

It is critical to have power of attorney documents done by an attorney, because in order to be valid, they must contain specific language and be executed (signed) properly before notary/witnesses. If any aspect of the document is invalid according to the specifics of the law, the document is invalid, and useless. We can assist you in preparing these documents properly, so that you are protected at the time of need.  Please contact us to set up an appointment to review this very critical area for you and your family members to make sure that you are adequately protected.

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