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What is a 'durable power of attorney' in Florida?

The power of attorney, as many Floridians know, has gained much more exposure, both in general and as an estate planning tool over the last decade or so. As a legal document, there are many uses for a power of attorney, and this flexibility may be one of the reasons for the increase in its popularity.

A power of attorney can come in one of three forms: limited, general, or durable. A limited power of attorney allows another person, called an "agent," to act on behalf of a person in certain sphere, for limited purposes. A general power of attorney, on the other hand, appoints an agent to act for a person in just about any area, with a few exceptions prohibited by law. It seems like this should cover everything. What then, is the use of a "durable" power of attorney?

One potential problem with a general power of attorney is that it is rendered ineffective if the principal, that is, the person who signed the document giving the powers to the agent, is incapacitated. Obviously, this would limit the usefulness of a power of attorney, if it was intended to allow certain actions to be accomplished in case the principal was unable to do so. This is where a Florida Durable Power of Attorney comes in. Sometimes called a "super" power of attorney, this document remains effective even if the person who executed it becomes incapacitated. To do so, however, the power of attorney document has to contain some very specific language. Most powers of attorney executed these days are of the durable kind.

There are some things agents may not do under any type of power of attorney. Agents may not practice law, unless they are licensed attorneys. They may not sign any document attesting to the principal's knowledge of certain facts, such as an affidavit about what was seen or heard by the principal. An agent also may not vote, create or revoke a will, or render a personal service on behalf of the principal. If you would like to know more about the specifics of powers of attorney in Florida, consider consulting an estate planning lawyer.

Source: The Florida Bar "Florida Power of Attorney," Accessed Sep. 23, 2014

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