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Florida law allows "superpowers" in powers of attorney

A Florida law that went into effect in 2011 allows individuals drafting a powers of attorney document to give what are being called "superpowers" to the designee of the document. This wide variety of different legal powers can be a boon to estate planning, but can also lead to abuses.

Under Florida law, durable powers of attorney can award the designee the ability to change the grantor's estate plans, to change beneficiaries on financial accounts, to create trusts, or terminate or modify them, make gifts and waive certain rights of the grantor. These powers can be helpful in some cases, as when trusts need to be created to avoid taxation, or if assets need to be moved in order to legally qualify for government benefits. However, they give the designee a large amount of power over the financial life of the grantor's estate. This power can be abused by the designee to his or her own advantage and to the detriment of the grantor's estate. The law does allow for courts to punish those who act in bad faith, but that may or may not be enough to return the grantor's estate to its previous position.

The bottom line is that, as with all estate planning matters, it is important that a grantor investigate all the legal ramifications of the document used to grant powers of attorney. It is essential that these "superpowers" only be given to a designee the grantor can trust implicitly. While a powers of attorney document is often a necessary part of an estate plan, along with a will and healthcare directives and proxies, grantors should always be alert to what exact powers they are giving, and to whom they are being given.

Source: Palm Beach Daily News, "Be careful awarding power of attorney 'superpowers'," Gail Liberman, June 30, 2013

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