What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives authority of a Principal (person making the Power of Attorney) their Agent (person authorized to act on the Principal's behalf through the Power of Attorney), also called an Attorney-in-fact. While there are few formal requirements of attorneys-in-fact, there are fiduciary responsibilities flowing from the position. Some of those responsibilities are set forth below. As an aside, granting of a power of attorney does not authorize the attorney-in-fact to practice law. 

The power of attorney can be used for a variety of personal and business transactions such as selling property (personal and real estate), managing bank accounts and investments, make health care decisions, or even sign tax returns. 

Therefore, Powers of Attorney can range from very simple to highly complex, and can authorize an extrodinary amount of control over a persons rights and property. A quick internet search will provide many "boilerplate" laden forms. Be mindful! A Power of Attorney carries a lot of weight in that the attorney-in-fact can have nearly limitless authority to manage and dispose of a persons assets. The internet forms may not provide the function or protection that the principal is seeking. Moreover, there are different kinds of Power of Attorneys, including a General power of attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney and while they overlap in certain respects, they differ greatly in others. 

The main difference between a general and a durable is that a General Power of Attorney automatically terminates when a person becomes mentally incapacitated (whether by injury, sickness, or otherwise). The Durable Power of Attorney, however, continues in full force without consideration of the incapacity. This is the "durable" nature of this form of power of attorney. 

How are Powers of Attorney Formed? 

Generally, in Florida, a Power of Attorney must be signed by the principal, with two witnesses and a notary acknowledgement of the principal's signature. With out the witnesses and the notary acknowledgement of the principal's signature, then the power of attorney could be invalid. There are, however, exceptions such as military Powers of Attorney or those formed under other state's laws. 

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