Among the new laws which the Florida legislature passed this session were substantial changes to the Durable Power of Attorney Statute. A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a document in which you appoint someone to legally act on your behalf. Essentially, your agent steps into your shoes to handle your affairs. Currently, DPOA’s can take effect immediately or they can be “springing” meaning they do not take effect until the person becomes incapacitated.
The DPOA statute has not undergone such substantial changes since 2005, and this year’s changes are significant. The new changes will take effect on October 1, 2011. The good news is that DPOA’s that were valid under Florida law before the effective date will remain valid. DPOA’s signed after the effective date, may not be “springing” anymore, meaning it takes effect immediately once signed (and not when you become incapacitated). The new law also requires written notice with special notice for financial institutions. The statute will require the individual signing the DPOA to specifically initial certain powers if they want their agent to be able to use those powers (such as the power to make gifts, the power to qualify for public benefits, trust powers (creating, amending revoking, etc), the power to change or create rights of survivorship or beneficiary designations, the powers to waive beneficiary rights in annuities and retirement plans and the power to disclaim property and powers of appointment). You can also no longer have a blanket POA that grants powers to agents.
The DPOA statute also give banks the power to make you obtain a legal opinion that your POA is legally effective and it also gives the bank time to review POA’s to determine if they will accept them. This is especially troubling for snowbirds or those who have just moved here from another state.
If you have questions about your current power of attorney (or if you have had any major life changes in the last 3 to 5 years), you should consult an attorney to help you determine if you need to update your POA.