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Why do I need powers of attorney?

Wills and trusts take care of your family, and powers of attorney take care of you. Powers of attorney allow someone to make decisions on your behalf if you end up incapacitated due to an injury or illness. Your "agent" or "attorney-in-fact" should be someone you trust. This person also needs to understand your wishes when it comes to your health and your finances.

Executing these documents also prevents your family from going to court to obtain the right to handle your finances and health care. Powers of attorney also save time, money and frustration during your time of need.

What powers do these documents give my agent?

You decide how much power your agent receives. For example, listing the life-saving measures you want used or not used in a health care power of attorney limits your agent's actions. In the alternative, you could give your agent broad discretion regarding your treatment.

Likewise, you determine what your agent does with your finances. The power to do anything from just paying the bills to selling property can be granted to your agent. It depends on what you are comfortable with your agent handling. Your agent acts in your stead. Legally speaking, any action taken by your agent is taken by you.

Choosing your agent

The following are popular choices to serve as agents for loved ones:

  • Spouse
  • Adult child
  • Friend
  • Other relatives

Whomever you choose, your agent must keep records of all transactions. Delivery of those records to you or someone else you trust needs to occur as often as you desire. Putting these instructions in your power of attorney makes it clear to your agent that a plan for oversight exists.

Voiding a power of attorney

Voiding a durable (permanent) power of attorney occurs through the following events:

  • You destroy the power of attorney (you must be competent)
  • You revoke it in writing and inform your agent (you must be competent)
  • Your death
  • Your agent's death (if no alternate is named)
  • The termination provisions in your document occur

If you desire to void your power of attorney, you should talk to a Florida attorney to determine if any other requirements must be met in order to do so. In fact, since powers of attorney essentially grant your agent dominion over you and your affairs, you should consult with an attorney to assist you with the drafting and execution.

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