Are you recently married? Do you live in Florida? Are you concerned about whether you should have a power of attorney? A power of attorney (POA) is a legal instrument that grants an individual the authority to act on behalf of another individual in various matters, including financial and healthcare decisions. Now in the context of marriage, it is common for couples to wonder whether a spouse is automatically granted a power of attorney over the other spouse’s affairs or if they have to complete legal planning. But, be aware in Florida, as in many other states, the concept of an “automatic” power of attorney for spouses is a misconception that needs clarification.

What is a Florida power of attorney? It is a legal document that authorizes one individual to act on behalf of another individual. The individual who is acting is usually referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” while the individual creating the document is the “principal.” This authority can be broad or limited, covering financial, legal, healthcare, and other specific matters. With this Florida estate planning tool the agent can make decisions and take actions as outlined in the document. However, it is important to note that a Florida power of attorney does not grant the agent the status of a co-owner or a spouse with automatic decision-making powers.

It is very important to note that in Florida, marriage itself does not automatically confer power of attorney rights upon a spouse. Even though marriage does establish a legal relationship with certain inherent rights and responsibilities, it does not grant automatic authority over the financial and healthcare decisions of a spouse. So, Florida spouses who wish to have this authority must explicitly create a power of attorney document.

The Florida power of attorney becomes especially important if you want your spouse to be able to have the authority to manage financial matters on your behalf. These financial tasks can include, but not be limited to, tasks such as handling bank accounts, paying bills, managing investments, and even selling property. If there is no power of attorney, your spouse has no inherent right to access or control your financial affairs.

Now another important planning consideration in regard to a power of attorney focuses on durability. You may have heard the term “durable” power of attorney. A Florida durable power of attorney remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated. It is particularly important for situations where the principal may be unable to make decisions due to illness, incapacity, or injury.

It is important for you to decide, right now, if you want to avoid potential complications and uncertainties in the future. If you do, then it is essential for you to plan for the future by creating a comprehensive Florida power of attorney with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney. This is especially important for spouses who want to ensure that their partner can act on their behalf if the need arises. Waiting until a crisis occurs could lead to legal and logistical challenges as one must have capacity to create this document, making an already difficult situation even more stressful.

To wrap up, in Florida a spouse does not automatically possess a power of attorney over their partner’s affairs solely due to marriage. It is crucial for individuals to understand that the Florida power of attorney is a separate legal document that must be established intentionally. By proactively creating the appropriate power of attorney documents with their experienced Florida estate planning attorney, couples can ensure they are prepared for unforeseen circumstances and that their wishes will be respected and carried out by their chosen agent.

We know you may have questions about this, and many other, estate planning and probate issues. At Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services.  By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.