Many people do not realize they need a power of attorney or advance directive until they are in the midst of a crisis. Unfortunately, that is often too late. Some people are surprised to find out that even spouses cannot access certain information without a written document. When you create a power of attorney or advance directive, you are naming an agent to act on your behalf when you cannot. Your trusted agent can take care of your assets and even help with medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
Powers of attorney and advance directives are powerful tools everyone should have as part of their estate plan. At Law Office Of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we can help you create documents tailored to your specific needs. Attorney Douglas A. Oberdorfer has over 20 years of legal experience and always works to make sure his Florida clients understand their options and feel comfortable with their choices.
In Florida, a power of attorney (POA) deals with a person’s finances and assets. Some states have medical powers of attorney, as well, but in Florida, we call those advance directives, which are explained below. Your POA gives your named agent, called the attorney-in-fact, certain powers listed in your document. You can limit or broaden the scope and duration of your document to meet your needs. For example, some people use a limited POA to sell a car or house when they cannot be there in person.
More commonly, however, people use a general POA to give their agent broad power to help them pay bills, file taxes and oversee any other financial transactions when their own abilities start to fade. This is why most people choose to have a “durable” POA, which is one that remains in effect even if you become incompetent. You must have the mental capacity needed to sign a POA. That means you must understand what you are signing at the time you sign the POA. As long as you still have the mental capacity, you can change or revoke the POA.
HIPAA rules prevent a doctor from discussing your medical care with anyone else, including your spouse, unless you give them written permission. An advance directive expresses your wishes regarding medical decisions if you are unable to make those decisions yourself, and can allow your doctor to consult with your spouse or another trusted person. Advance directives include three different forms:
You do not have to create all three forms if you do not wish to do so. You may choose to do only one or two. Many people create their advance directive when they are facing a difficult illness, but others create their documents as part of their estate plan. The benefit to this is that you have it in place in the case of an unexpected illness or injury that finds you suddenly incapacitated.
Without a POA or an advance directive, your loved ones may have to file for guardianship in order to take care of you. That is a much more expensive and time-consuming process.
POAs and advance directives can give you and your family peace of mind regarding the future, whether you need them tomorrow or years from now. Call our office in Jacksonville at 904-299-6912 or reach out online to schedule a free initial consultation about your estate plan.
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