Choosing an Agent for Power of Attorney
Choosing your agent for your Power of Attorney is a really important decision because they're going be standing in your shoes and acting as if they were you if you are incapacitated or indisposed. You also might just be traveling and you need your agent to act on your behalf for a business, banking or real estate matter. In terms of legal requirements, your named agent must be over 18 years old and they must be someone that's capable of handling whatever the task is at hand. While you may want to pick your spouse first, you also may want to consider a relative, a trusted professional, or a person that you know as a capable and willing alternate. Something you also always need to do is make sure there's a backup that can step in their shoes if they're incapable, unable or unwilling to do what you want or need them to do.
One consideration is whether you want a single agent or multiple co-agents. When you have multiple co-agents acting together, the default under Florida’s rules is that they may act independently of one another. You can also require them to act jointly, which could have some logistical issues with it but also some nice checks and balances. For example, if you become incapacitated and your co-agents cannot come to an agreement, there could be valuable time lost while they are arguing instead of having a decision made quickly. That's certainly something to discuss with your attorney. Lastly, you want to make sure that whomever you're picking is given the appropriate powers that you really want to be giving them. Keep in mind the limitations you are imposing - is it limited in scope or limited in time or duration? Are you giving away general powers that are good for a long period of time and address everything that you need in the distant future? Could your relationship change? It is vital that you trust the person that you are giving the power to act on your behalf. These powers can easily be abused if they are given to a dishonest person, as there is no court involved process or public registry of agents set up to supervise unscrupulous appointees.
A Power of Attorney appointment can last as long as you desire up until your time of death. Moreover, you can change your agent or terminate an existing Power of Attorney whenever you want as long as you are mentally and physically capable of doing so. It is important to evaluate and update your Power of Attorney periodically. For example, the agent you chose to handle your affairs five years ago may not be alive or may not be easily accessible in the event of a medical emergency next week. It is important to trust that the agent(s) you choose have the time and ability to handle your financial affairs as well as acting on your behalf with third parties. Powers of attorney documents should be personally customized for each unique situation.
In order for a Power of Attorney to be effective in Florida, the document needs, among other things, to be in writing, signed, witnessed, and notarized. If you have any questions or concerns about the responsibilities of a Power of Attorney, please call The Estate Plan at (305) 665-8888. We’d be happy to help.