Understanding Powers of Attorney

When most people think about estate planning, their minds automatically jump to the last will and testament. There is no doubt that wills are vital planning tools, but there are certain things which a will simply does not accomplish.

Wills do not allow you to leave certain types of property such as life insurance or pension proceeds for which you have named a beneficiary. They are usually not helpful for leaving funeral instructions since it usually takes some time to find the will following one’s death. And perhaps most importantly, they are completely irrelevant when it comes to ceding control of certain property or decision-making on your behalf while you are still alive.

“Why would I want to give someone control over my affairs while I’m alive,” you might ask. Imagine a scenario where you are in an accident and you fall into a coma or are otherwise unable to make coherent decisions for yourself. Who will instruct the doctors on how to proceed with your care? Who will pay your bills, handle your investments,, and even sell property in order to pay for your care?

It is in such situations that a Power of Attorney is particularly effective.

What is a Power of Attorney?

Powers of attorney are any legal documents which give control or authority to an agent you’ve selected to act on your behalf. As the creator of a power of attorney document you would be known as the “principal,” and you can use the document to grant very specific, limited powers, or very broad powers to the designated agent. In Florida, there are three main powers of attorney which a principal could create.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney generally grants the agent control over most legal affairs and decisions of the principal. This often includes financial affairs, since all power of attorney agents are considered fiduciaries and are required by law to act in the best interests of the principal. The general power of attorney document will usually specify how broad of powers the agent will have with regard to decision-making on the principal’s behalf.

Health Care Power of Attorney

Some people may elect to designate a separate power of attorney for their health care decisions. For example, you may grant a general power of attorney to a trusted financial agent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want that individual making medical decisions on your behalf. Most people will grant health care power of attorney to a trusted loved one. This document, generally known as a healthcare designation, will give the agent authority to make decisions regarding your care, particularly in cases when you are temporarily incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Under such circumstances, it is also essential to have a Living Will which spells out your wishes with regard to end-of-life care.

Limited Power of Attorney

In cases where a principal only wants to grant legal decision-making authority for very limited purposes, they could create a limited power of attorney granting very narrow scope of powers to the agent.

Durable

If you want your power of attorney to endure even when you are incapacitated, you must make the document “Durable.” A durable power of attorney will be valid until revoked by the principal. Without it, your power of attorney would terminate if you ever became incapacitated.

You may choose to select any competent individual who is 18 years of age or older to be your agent. It is essential that you select agents whom you can implicitly trust with incredibly important decisions regarding your life and finances.

Powers of attorney are documents which everyone can benefit from creating. Our standard and premium will packages include the preparation of a power of attorney along with other documents such as your will, healthcare designation, and living will. our premium package even includes unlimited changes to your documents which ensures that you make timely adjustments when the need arises, without the concern of additional money being required. If you’d like to learn more about powers of attorney or you’re interested in creating one, contact the Vasquez de Lara Law Group today to discuss your options.

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