Durable Power of Attorney and Estate Planning Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater
Welcome. An estate plan also includes a plan for temporary or permanent incapacity. Injuries and illness, particularly involving the brain, like stroke, head trauma, or dementia, can affect the ability to manage financial and legal affairs. It is wise to authorize a trusted person to handle these matters in advance, if the need arises. One of the easiest ways is to execute a Durable Power of Attorney.
A Durable Power of Attorney, commonly referred to as a DPOA, is a written document, signed by an individual (the Principal) in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. It contains language which authorizes the trusted person “the Agent” to act on the Principal’s behalf. It is governed by Chapter 709, Florida Statutes, which is known as the “Florida Durable Power of Attorney Act.” This law was significantly revised in October of 2011, however Powers of Attorney executed before then, are still legally valid.
Some assume, that a spouse will automatically be authorized to manage the affairs of another during incapacity, however this is not the case. It is prudent for married couples to have a Durable Power of Attorney to designate each other as their agents. If not married, any trusted person such as a family member, significant other, a friend, or even a professional fiduciary, can serve as an agent.
A written legal Durable Power of Attorney document is necessary when dealing with third parties on the principal’s behalf. Third parties are banks, auto insurance companies, homeowner’s insurance, license bureaus, brokerage houses, credit unions, human resource departments, retirement plans, life insurance, etc. When dealing with these third parties on behalf of the “principal”, the first question asked of you will be to provide a copy of the Durable Power of Attorney, appointing you as the “agent”.
The document is inexpensive and certainly worthwhile, given the alternative of establishing an expensive guardianship procedure in the courts.
An agent has a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and in the best interests of the principal.
For more information on the duties of an agent, click here for a brochure issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.