Powers of Attorney Lawyer in Ocala, Florida
Most people think estate planning is all about deciding what happens to their possessions after they die. However, estate planning may also help you manage your assets and your care while you are alive. In both cases, an estate plan speaks for you when you cannot speak for yourself. The power of attorney may speak loudest of all. Illness, disease, accidents, and other events can render you unable to gather information and make decisions for yourself. Powers of attorney are key estate planning tools everyone should utilize.
If you are thinking about creating or updating an estate plan, I can help you understand what tools you have at your disposal and guide you in your decisions regarding which ones to employ. At Michael A. Siefert, P.A., I teach clients in Ocala and throughout Marion County, Florida about the benefits of powers of attorney and other estate planning tools.
What Are Powers of Attorney?
Essentially, a power of attorney delegates authority from one person to another. The person who creates the power of attorney, referred to as the “principal,” names a person they choose to allow to make decisions in their stead. The person granted the authority is the principal’s agent or attorney-in-fact.
If you are reluctant to delegate such authority to someone else, you are not alone. Many people are afraid the power of attorney allows someone else to supersede their own decision-making rights. What you should know is that you can create powers of attorney that limit the authority your agent has. A power of attorney protects you and your interests. It does not place your interests in jeopardy.
What Types of Powers of Attorney Are There?
There are three general types of powers of attorney: general, durable, and limited.
A general power of attorney grants broad authority to an agent to conduct legal business on the principal’s behalf. However, what types of authority must be specifically stated in the power of attorney for the agent to be able to exercise specific authority?
For example, if you want your agent to be able to buy and sell real property for you, the power of attorney must state the agent has the authority to do so. The document serves as proof of the agent’s authority when working with a third party, such as a lender or real estate agency. Should you become incapacitated or die, the authority granted in a general power of attorney ends, unless it is a durable power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney remains in effect upon your incapacitation or death. A power of attorney for healthcare must be durable to allow your agent to have access to protected health information and to make decisions about your care when you cannot speak for yourself. You might also name the executor of your estate in a durable power of attorney so they can access your bank accounts, liquidate property and assets, and access your Social Security account when you die. Most durable powers of attorney are “springing.” That is, they “spring” into action upon your death or incapacitation. Until then, your agent cannot exercise the authority you have granted in them.
There are also limited powers of attorney which, as the name implies, limits the authority granted. For example, you can execute a limited power of attorney granting your agent the authority to enter into a real estate contract, mortgage transactions, and purchasing agreements to buy a property while you are out of the country. The agent can only act in your stead on the specific actions granted in the power of attorney and nothing else.
Why Are Powers of Attorney Important?
Powers of attorney are vital estate planning tools. You will name an executor in your will, but the probate court will need to approve the executor and grant that person the authority to access your assets and accounts, liquidate assets, pay debts, and distribute your estate to those you have named as beneficiaries. A durable power of attorney accompanying your will should help the probate process move more quickly.
A durable power of attorney granting your agent authority to manage your assets for your care should you become incapacitated may be priceless. Otherwise, the court will name a conservator for you. In the meantime, your bills may go unpaid, your benefits unclaimed, and your business affairs unmanaged. There is tremendous value in having your affairs managed when you cannot.
What Should I Consider When Naming an Agent?
The attorney-in-fact does not have to be an attorney but rather someone the principal has complete trust in to make decisions in their stead. That could be your attorney, a family member, a business partner, or a best friend.
The only legal requirements for your naming of an agent in Florida are that they are 18 years of age or older and be mentally competent. It is wise to name not only someone you trust, but someone you believe will respect your wishes and make decisions such as you would likely make if you could.
Powers of Attorney Lawyer in Ocala, Florida
Giving someone else the authority to make decisions for you is no small matter. It is wise to work with an estate planning attorney who will fully discuss all implications of that authority to draft all powers of attorney specific to your wishes and your needs. If you are ready to learn how powers of attorney can work in your estate plan, I am ready to help. Call Michael A. Siefert, P.A., in Ocala, Florida today to schedule a time to talk.