A Florida Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint an individual to make critical decisions on your behalf. It outlines how you want this person to handle your financial, medical, and legal affairs. It is a legally binding document that lists specifically what that person can do and what they cannot do.

A durable power of attorney is a form of Advance Directive recognized by Florida that lets you express your decisions about health care if you are in a persistent vegetative state, have an end-stage condition, or develop a terminal illness. It can also give directives for how your affairs should be handled after your death. 

How is a Durable Power of Attorney Different from a Power of Attorney? 

When a power of attorney is durable, that means there’s language within the document that states an agent’s authority continues to apply if you become incapacitated. However, a power of attorney that does not use the word “durable” will end if you become incapacitated.

There is no automatic deadline when a durable power of attorney expires. Instead, it stays effective until the principal dies or until they act to revoke the power they’ve granted to their agent. 

What Can a Durable Power of Attorney Do?

A durable power of attorney outlines how someone may act for you about your health care, finances, and other areas of life while you cannot make decisions for yourself and after your death. For example, it can instruct whether to resuscitate (revive) you should your heart stop. It also allows you to express your organ donation wishes. It can also give instructions for non-healthcare decisions, such as applying for government and public assistance benefits to reduce your out-of-pocket cost of long-term care and health care needs.

A power of attorney can be limited, or it can include a lengthy list of instructions. However, it must be specific. In 2011, the State of Florida did away with broad grants of authority (i.e., allowing the named person “to do everything the grantor could do”). Your appointed person can only perform the things expressly granted in the durable power of attorney document. 

What Do I Need to Consider when Creating a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney can give someone a great deal of control over your affairs and should be carefully thought through. You should select someone you trust. Whoever you appoint will be able to handle your assets and will have access to your financial matters. They might also make end-of-life decisions for you. You must provide specific instructions about what this person can and cannot do, so that your wishes are carried out. 

Most importantly, you must understand that a durable power of attorney becomes immediately effective once you have signed the necessary document in the presence of two adult witnesses and a notary. That said, executing a power of attorney does not take away your ability to continue managing your assets and making your own decisions. 

Other Types of Advance Directives

A durable power of attorney is just one type of Advance Directive. Other Advance Directives include a Living Will and Health Care Surrogate. 

A Living Will lets you state your wishes about health care if you are in a persistent vegetative state, have an end-stage condition, or develop a terminal illness. In addition, it can help avoid disputes among your loved ones as to how to proceed regarding your end-of-life care.

A Health Care Surrogate is a legal document that names another person as your representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You can include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want, similar to a living will. You can also designate an alternate surrogate. 

Depending on your individual needs, you may wish to include any one or a combination of the different types of Advance Directives in your end-of-life and estate planning.

Can I Change my Mind about my Durable Power of Attorney? 

You may change or revoke a durable power of attorney or other advance directives at any time. You can do so by executing another document revoking the power of attorney or by creating a new power of attorney and expressing that the new power of attorney will revoke any previous authority given.

Establishing a durable power of attorney can be a beneficial tool in an emergency or at the end-of-life. However, these documents are complex and must meet robust criteria to be considered valid in Florida. If you have any questions or are ready to create a durable power of attorney, call our experienced estate planning lawyers at Mortellaro Law today: 813-367-1500.