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Why You Need a Power of Attorney and How to Choose the Right One for You

Have you ever thought about what would happen if you were unable to make important decisions for yourself? Whether it's due to illness, injury, or another unexpected circumstance, the reality is that it can happen to anyone at any time. That's why having a Power of Attorney (POA) is crucial. A POA is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. However, choosing the right POA can be a daunting task. With so many options and legal jargon to navigate, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But fear not, in this article, we'll break down everything you need to know about POAs and provide you with tips on how to choose the right one for you. So, whether you're planning for the future or facing unexpected circumstances, read on to discover why you need a POA and how to choose the right one for your unique situation.

What is Power of Attorney and why is it important?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. This person, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, will have the authority to make decisions regarding your finances, healthcare, and other important matters.

There are many reasons why having a POA is important. First and foremost, it allows you to have control over who will make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Without a POA, the court would appoint someone to act as your guardian or conservator, which may not be someone you would choose.

Additionally, a POA can help avoid disputes among family members or other loved ones who may have differing opinions on what decisions should be made on your behalf. It can also help ensure that your wishes are carried out in the way that you want them to be, even if you are unable to communicate those wishes yourself.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are several types of POAs, each with their own unique purpose and level of authority. Here are the most common types of POAs:

General Power of Attorney

A General Power of Attorney gives your agent broad authority to make decisions on your behalf, including managing your finances, paying bills, and making legal decisions. This type of POA is typically used for short-term situations or when you are unable to handle your affairs for a period of time, such as during a hospital stay or vacation.

Limited Power of Attorney

A Limited Power of Attorney, also known as a Special Power of Attorney, gives your agent authority to make decisions on your behalf for a specific purpose or time period. For example, you might use a Limited POA to allow someone to handle the sale of a piece of property while you are out of the country.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is similar to a General POA, but it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. This type of POA is often used for long-term planning, as it ensures that your agent will be able to make decisions on your behalf even if you are unable to do so.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Healthcare Power of Attorney, also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. This person, known as your healthcare agent, will have the authority to make decisions regarding your medical care, including whether to start or stop treatment, and whether to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining measures.

Who needs a Power of Attorney?

Everyone should consider having a POA, regardless of their age or health status. While it's true that older adults are more likely to need a POA due to age-related health issues, unexpected illness or injury can happen to anyone at any time. Having a POA in place ensures that someone you trust will be able to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so.

Additionally, if you have children who are minors, it's important to have a POA in place to ensure that someone will be able to make decisions on their behalf if you are unable to do so. This can include decisions regarding their healthcare, education, and finances.

How to choose the right Power of Attorney

Choosing the right POA is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a POA:

Trustworthiness

The person you choose as your agent should be someone you trust implicitly. This person will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf, so it's important that they have your best interests in mind.

Availability

Your agent should be someone who is readily available and able to make decisions on your behalf when needed. If your agent lives in another state, for example, it may be difficult for them to make decisions on your behalf in a timely manner.

Ability to make decisions

Your agent should be someone who is capable of making decisions on your behalf. This includes having the ability to understand the decisions that need to be made, and the ability to communicate those decisions to others.

Willingness to serve

Your agent should be someone who is willing to serve in this capacity. This means that they are willing to take on the responsibility of making decisions on your behalf, and that they understand the gravity of this responsibility.

How to create and execute a Power of Attorney document

Creating and executing a POA document is a relatively simple process, but it does require some careful consideration. Here are the basic steps to follow:

Choose your agent

The first step in creating a POA is to choose your agent. Consider the factors listed above when making your decision.

Choose the type of POA

Determine which type of POA is best suited for your needs. Consider whether you need a General, Limited, Durable, or Healthcare POA.

Draft the POA document

The POA document should include your name, the name of your agent, and the specific powers that you are granting to your agent. It should also include any limitations or conditions that you want to place on your agent's authority.

Sign and notarize the document

You and your agent should sign the POA document in the presence of a notary public. This will ensure that the document is legally binding.

Distribute copies of the document

Make sure that your agent and any other relevant parties, such as your healthcare provider, have a copy of the POA document.

How to revoke a Power of Attorney

If you need to revoke a POA, you can do so by following these steps:

Draft a revocation document

The revocation document should include your name, the name of your agent, and a statement revoking the POA.

Sign and notarize the document

You and your agent should sign the revocation document in the presence of a notary public.

Distribute copies of the document

Make sure that your agent and any other relevant parties, such as your healthcare provider, have a copy of the revocation document.

Frequently asked questions about Power of Attorney

Can I have more than one agent?

Yes, you can appoint more than one agent to act on your behalf. However, it's important to specify whether they can act independently or whether they must act jointly.

Can I change my agent?

Yes, you can change your agent at any time by revoking the POA and creating a new one with a new agent.

What happens if I don't have a POA in place?

If you become incapacitated and do not have a POA in place, the court will appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions on your behalf. This can be a lengthy and costly process, and the person appointed may not be someone you would choose.

Conclusion: The importance of having a Power of Attorney in place.

In conclusion, having a POA in place is essential for anyone who wants to ensure that their wishes are carried out in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves. By choosing the right POA and executing the document properly, you can have peace of mind knowing that someone you trust will be able to make decisions on your behalf. So, take the time to consider your options and create a POA that works best for your unique situation.

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