Moving to the Gulf Coast over a decade ago there was little culture change from my prior homes in Athens, Georgia or Birmingham; however, small cultural differences such as how gumbo is made have arisen from time to time. Gumbo along the Gulf Coast is as diverse as the people who live along the Gulf Coast. There is the battle over how dark the roux should be or how to best use okra, what seafood works best, etc.. Basically it is far from a simple dish.
Which brings me to the point, a person’s power of attorney is like a pot of gumbo in that what goes into it depends largely on your situation. This document which seems like a generic form is far from simple. For those unfamiliar with it a power of attorney is a document that directs the public to who may act in your place for matters dealing with your assets and income. It may also deal with health care; however, today most are encouraged to designate a health care surrogate (more on that another time). The power of attorney will nominate a person The Florida Statute governing power of attorneys has over 30 provisions with many subdivisions within each of those provisions. This is because what applies to one family will likely not apply to another person’s family.
A good durable power of attorney should provide your Agent (person the power is given to) with the appropriate authority considering your assets and income to handle your affairs. A power of attorney that provides extensive provisions for avoiding estate taxs when you total estate is worth less than $1 million does about as much good as Oyster gumbo for someone who hates oysters.
As of October 1, 2011 Florida residents have a new power of attorney statute that seeks to help people understand certain powers such as gifting, creation of trust, etc. The change in the statute provides for certain enumerated powers to be specifically granted. Many attorneys now refer to these powers as super powers. If you attorney uses the straight statutory language your estate could be at risk. The attorney should be taking the language and making it unique to your circumstance. At Waddell & Waddell, P.A. we have taken the time to work with the new language to protect our clients as few of our clients have estates subject to an estate tax (estates greater than $5 million per individual).
While I appreciate seeing an attorney to draft a power of attorney might not be as appealing as a bowl of good gumbo, taking the time to meet with an attorney who isn’t just trying to do you a favor but who is listening to your unique set of facts and creating a Power of Attorney to match your circumstance can provide you greater protection over the course of your life. Therefore seek out a qualified attorney to help guide you through the process.
Jason A. Waddell is a Board Certified Florida Elder Law Attorney who practices on the Panhandle of Florida.