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What Does it Mean to Execute a “Power of Attorney”?

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A “Power of Attorney” is one of the basic estate planning documents that everyone should have in place. It is a legal document that delegates authority from one person (the “principal”) to another (the “agent”). The type of authority delegated varies, but often involves the ability to help make financial or legal decisions on the principal’s behalf. The scope of the authority delegated depends on the language of the Power of Attorney. For example, the Florida Bar’s website notes that a principal can choose to create a Limited Power of Attorney, a General Power of Attorney, or a Durable Power of Attorney.

  • Limited Power of Attorney: Under a Limited Power of Attorney, the appointed agent is given the authority to act on behalf of the principal under specified circumstances. Please note that under a Limited Power of Attorney, the agent’s authority ends if the principal becomes incapacitated.
  • General Power of Attorney: A General Power of Attorney is much more broad than a Limited Power of Attorney, and grants the agent broad authority to perform legal acts on the principal’s behalf. A General Power of Attorney always includes a list specifying which activities the agent is authorized to perform. Under a General Power of Attorney, the agent’s authority ends if the principal becomes incapacitated.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A Durable Power of Attorney operates in the same manner as a General Power of Attorney, but contains language indicating that the principal intends for the agent’s authority to continue in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated. According to the Florida Bar, most Powers of Attorney executed these days are durable. It is a good idea to execute a Durable Power of Attorney as soon as possible in case you unexpectedly become incapacitated and need someone trustworthy to make important decisions on your behalf.

In all of the above documents, the principal often appoints an alternate agent in case the primary agent is not available or is unable to act.

When Does a Power of Attorney Terminate?

Under a Power of Attorney, an agent’s authority is terminated if any of the following events occur:

  • The principal or the agent dies:
  • The principal revokes the Power of Attorney:
  • The principal becomes incapacitated and the Power of Attorney is not durable:
  • The agent becomes incapacitated:
  • The purpose of the Power of Attorney is satisfied:
  • The term specified in the Power of Attorney ends:
  • The agent is removed by a court or resigns: or
  • The principal and the agent are married to each other and file a petition to dissolve their marriage (unless the Power of Attorney states otherwise).

Need Legal Assistance?

If you live in Florida and would like help with preparing and executing a Power of Attorney, or information about the enforceability of a previously executed Power of Attorney, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Kira Doyle Law. Our lawyers are happy to sit down with you to discuss your estate planning needs and legal options. Contact our St. Petersburg office today at (727) 537-6818.