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A power of attorney is a legal document delegating authority from one person to another. In the document, the maker of the power of attorney (the “principal”) grants the right to act on the maker’s behalf as that person’s agent. What authority is granted depends on the specific language of the power of attorney. A person giving a power of attorney may make it very broad or may limit it to certain specific acts.
A power of attorney may be used to give another the right to sell a car, home or other property. A power of attorney might be used to allow another to access bank accounts, sign a contract, make health care decisions, handle financial transactions or sign legal documents for the principal. A power of attorney may give others the right to do almost any legal act that the maker of the power of attorney could do, including the ability to create trusts and make gifts
A power of attorney is an important and powerful legal document, as it is authority for someone to act in someone else’s legal capacity. It should be drawn by a lawyer to meet the person’s specific circumstances. Pre-printed forms may fail to provide the protection desired.
A power of attorney must be signed by the principal and by two witnesses to the principal’s signature, and a notary must acknowledge the principal’s signature for the power of attorney to be properly executed and valid under Florida law. There are exceptions for military powers of attorney and for powers of attorney created under the laws of another state.
The “principal” is the maker of the power of attorney – the person who is delegating authority to another. This is the person who is allowing someone else to act on his or her behalf.
The “agent” is the recipient of the power of attorney – the party who is given the power to act on behalf of the principal. The agent is sometimes referred to as an “attorney-in-fact.” The term “attorney-in-fact” does not mean the person is a lawyer.
As used in this pamphlet, a “third party” is a person or institution with whom the agent has dealings on behalf of the principal. Examples include a bank, a doctor, the buyer of property that the agent is selling for the principal, a broker, or anyone else with whom the agent must deal on behalf of the principal.