Twice in the past few weeks we have had clients come in with durable powers
of attorney that are more than 10 years old. The durable power of attorney
is the legal document that states who you want to handle your non-medical
affairs if you are incapacitated and can no longer handle them yourself.
Although Florida durable powers of attorney do not legally expire, they
can become less effective due to changes in the law. In fact, Florida
changed its durable power of attorney law in October of 2011 and indeed,
these changes have made many of the durable powers of attorney signed
before October 1, 2011 less effective than they were before the law changed.
What has happened to these older durable powers of attorney is similar
to what happens when you take a blanket off the shelf after many years
and find that the moths have eaten some holes in it. The blanket is still
there, but it isn’t going to keep you as warm as it did before.
If we find one of these older durable powers of attorney and the person
who signed it still has legal capacity to update it, we encourage them
to update it as soon as possible. However, if the person who signed it
has lost legal capacity (due to an illness such as the later stages of
dementia), it is too late to update the durable power of attorney.
If the durable power of attorney can’t be updated and it doesn’t
contain the specific powers the family needs to help their loved one,
in Florida, many times the only option is for the family to go to court
and petition to become the legal guardian for their loved one. It can
be heartbreaking to watch a family realize too late that they were not
as prepared as they had always thought they were.
Give your family the gift of truly being prepared and have your durable
power of attorney reviewed and potentially updated while you still can.