On October 1, 2011, Florida’s new Power of Attorney Act went into effect. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that you use to appoint another person as your agent while you are living to handle your business and financial affairs. Because the new POA law differs significantly from the prior law, it may be a good idea to sign a new one. Here are six things you need to know about the new law:

 

1. Signing formalities are crucial. The new law requires a person making a Florida power of attorney (called the “principal”) to sign the document in front of two witnesses and a Notary Public.

 

2. New rules governing multiple agents. Under the new Florida law, if two or more agents are named in a power of attorney to act at the same time, then they can act independently of each other unless the power of attorney specifies otherwise.

 

3. Filing for divorce triggers revocation of a spouse’s authority. The mere filing of a petition for divorce will terminate the authority of the principal’s spouse to act under the principal’s power of attorney.

 

4. Powers of attorney will no longer be allowed to “spring” into action. Springing powers of attorney will no longer be allowed to be created in Florida, instead all new powers of attorney will be effective immediately. However, springing powers of attorney signed before October 1, 2011 will remain valid.

 

5. Specific authority must be granted. The following catch-all phrase that commonly appears in powers of attorney can no longer be relied on:

 

“In general, to do all other acts, deeds, matters, and things whatsoever in or about my estate, property, and affairs, whether or not particularly or generally described and any and all other acts, deeds, matters, and things not particularly or generally set forth herein, as fully and effectively to all intents and purposes as the undersigned could do if personally present; and to employ, retain in employment and discharge such persons (both professional and otherwise) as my Agent may deem necessary to assist in the performance of any of the foregoing.”

 

Instead, a power of attorney must list with specificity the authority being granted.

 

Although the new Act provides that POAs signed before October 1, 2011 are valid, there is a practical reason for updating your power of attorney. Once the Act has been in existence for a while, third persons relying on a POA will be accustomed to the requirements of the new Act. If a pre-October 1, 2011 POA is presented sometime down the road, it may come under heightened scrutiny, making it more difficult to have it honored by third persons. This would undermine the reason to have a POA in the first place.

 

I hope this information on Florida’s new power of attorney Act is helpful.

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