An indelible piece of every estate plan is a carefully drafted and executed power of attorney. Most estate plans in Florida will include at least two of these vital documents, while some people might decide to create more. The great thing about a power of attorney is that it is both useful and incredibly flexible.
However, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about these vital legal documents. To help you better understand powers of attorney, let’s take a look at why some the most commonly believed myths are wrong.
Myth 1. I don’t need a power of attorney because I’m young/healthy/married.
No one knows what the future holds, and a power of attorney is one of the best tools you can have to guard against future disasters or emergencies. Every capable adult, whether they are young, old, healthy, or sick, needs powers of attorney in place. If you don’t have these documents and something should happen to you, there is no guarantee that those who end up making decisions on your behalf will do what you want them to do.
Further, if you are married, you cannot rely on the marital relationship between you and your spouse to guarantee that your spouse will be able to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated one day. If you want your spouse to have this ability you need to have a good power of attorney in place to guarantee that your spouse will be able to step in to take over your affairs without difficulty.
Myth 2. I shouldn’t make a power of attorney because anyone I appoint as an agent might take advantage of me.
While this is technically true because you cannot control other people’s actions, an agent who misuses his or her ability under a power of attorney faces some significant legal consequences. Agents have a legal duty to act in your best interest. If your agent takes advantage of you or otherwise acts inappropriately, not only can that agent be subject to civil lawsuits and penalties, but criminal sanctions can also apply.
Myth 3. I made my power of attorney years ago after speaking to a lawyer, so I don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Laws change, people change, and the power of attorney you made years ago might not be of any value to you today. As with any other estate planning device, it’s important for you to review your power of attorney on a regular basis. If the power is active, meaning that your agent is currently representing your interests, you might go so far as to renew or rewrite the power every six months or every year.