How Good is Your Power of Attorney & Do You Know?
Some people believe that all power of attorney documents are the same or have a “one size fits all” mentality. This misconception that all powers of attorney are uniform can result in a costly experience when it comes time to exercise the power of that document. In some cases for example, and especially when the principal that gave the power is incapacitated, it can lead to a loved one being unable to access a bank account. It can also lead to the need for a guardianship which can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Fortunately, I have clients that have come to me ahead of time to have their powers of attorney evaluated. Most clients want to know that their power of attorney document is sufficient to meet all their potential needs were they unable to act for themselves. Since needs change over our lifetime, it makes sense that your power of attorney document may need to be revised at some point.
Some circumstances that may provoke consideration on whether your power of attorney document should be modified are: 1) moving from another state to Florida or being a “snowbird”; 2) having health issues; 3) losing a loved one that was your named or backup power of attorney; 4) family dynamics evolving; and 5) changes in the law.
Please be aware that the Florida statutes governing power of attorneys changed effective October 1, 2011. Some of the changes dealt with the powers themselves such as mandating that the grantor of the powers initial certain provisions that grant “extraordinary” or “super” powers. These powers can be particularly important if one needs to protect assets to pay for long-term care. For instance, if the principal has Dementia or Alzheimer’s and resides in a nursing home, the Agent may need certain powers to be able to access and protect funds to afford the nursing home care.
It may be a good idea to review your document and see if you have you executed a document that has your initials next to certain provisions. The more that time passes since this law change, the more unfamiliar people will be with the type and look of those documents that were executed prior to the law change.
When people ask me whether they should have an attorney look at their power of attorney document to see if it meets their needs, I often say: “If you thought enough to ask, then it is probably worth taking the time to have your document reviewed.” If you desire to discuss the issues explored in this article or would like to execute a durable power of attorney tailored to your needs, please contact a knowledgeable estate planning or elder law attorney to assist you.