What is a durable power of attorney?

To help understand what a “durable power of attorney is,” it is useful to understand what a regular “power of attorney” is. In Florida, as in other states, a power of attorney is a legal document by which one person delegates authority to another person to act on his or her behalf. The person who grants the power of attorney is referred to as the “principal.” The person who receives the authority to act on behalf of the principal is called the “agent.” The amount of authority the principal grants to the agent is determined by the specific language in the power of attorney document. It can be broad or narrow.

The power of attorney document can be used to grant to another the ability to perform almost any legal act on behalf of the principal that the principal himself or herself could do.  For example, the principal can use the power of attorney document to grant to another person the right to sell his home, have access to his bank accounts, etc.

A “durable power of attorney” document is one in which the power that the principal delegates to the agent survives even if the principal becomes incapacitated. This is different from the typical power of attorney document, which will become ineffective once the principal becomes incapacitated. The power of attorney document must contain special language that makes it durable. Principals can use durable power of attorney documents to allow their agent to make important financial and medical decisions for them once they have become incapacitated. For this reason, if you are giving someone a durable power of attorney to act on your behalf, it is critical that you choose someone trustworthy.

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