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Effective October 1, 2011, a new law went to effect that dramatically changed the Florida Power of Attorney Statute. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document in which one party, the principal, grants authority to another party, the agent, to act on behalf of the principal.  

Important changes in the new Florida law include:

  1. Individuals can no longer create a springing power of attorney in Florida – a springing power of attorney is a POA that becomes effective in the event of disability of the principla or some future contingent event.  The new law continues to honor existing springing POAs that were executed before october 1, 2011 and military POAs that contain springing POA language.
  2. All Florida Powers of Attorney are effective upon execution.
  3. The principal must specifically initial any provision that allows for:
    – gifting, changing beneficiary of a retirement account,
    – changing any benefiary of an annuity,
    – changing the ownership or beneficiary of a life insurance policy,
    – amending, modifying, creating, revoking or terminating a trust,
    – waiving the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including surivor benefits under a retirement plan, or
    – disclaiming property and powers of appointment
  4. If multiple agents are named, absent explicit direction otherwise, each agent may act unilaterally. This changes prior law which presumed that when multiple agents were named, they had to act together.
  5. Third parties (e.g., banks) are required to accept a copy of the power of attorney.
  6. If a third party refuses to accept a POA, they must state their reasons in writing within 4 days of being shown the POA.

The new Power of Attorney Act also modifies and clarifies the duties of an agent. Specifically, the agent may not delegate authority to act as agent (except for investment functions), the agent must keep record of all receipts, disbursements and transactions made on behalf of the principal, and the agent may not act contrary to the principal’s reasonable expectations, including preserving the principal’s estate plan.

The changes are not retroactive, so powers of attorney drafted before October 1, 2011 are still valid (including gifting provisions that are not initialed). However, to avoid confusion, it may be best to redo any older power of attorney forms you have.