estate planning conceptA power of attorney document is one of the more important documents in anyone’s estate plan. Essentially, a power of attorney gives another person the right to make incredibly important legal, financial, and healthcare decisions on your behalf while you are alive. At the same time, the laws governing powers of attorney are quite complex. As a result, if you develop the need for a power of attorney document, it is generally best to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. That way, you can ensure that the document accomplishes exactly what you want it to and complies with state law. The last thing you want is to rely on a document that doesn’t accomplish what you thought it did.

Why Avoid an Online Power of Attorney?

The internet makes life easier in many ways. However, you probably know that you cannot trust the truth of everything you read online. Likewise, the internet is not the best source of legal advice. When it comes to something as critical to your well-being as the power of attorney — you should not exclusively trust an online resource that claims to help you accomplish your goals in the absence of professional guidance.

Let’s take a closer look at reasons to avoid an online power of attorney.

You Deserve Personalized Advice

Whether it be creating a will that clarifies where someone wants their property to go after they die or who will take care of their kids, or figuring out long-term care options in the event of sudden disability, estate planning lawyers are in the business of helping people plan for their future. No one’s future is known, and no two futures are identical. Thus, when you create an estate planning document, including a power of attorney, it is important to receive individualized advice about the decisions you make. Also, it is important to understand what legal documents can do, and what they cannot do.

For example, when you execute a power of attorney, you must determine which decision-making powers to delegate to your agent. You must also decide when the person you name as your agent assumes those powers. For example, if you execute a general power of attorney, your agent will immediately be able to make legally binding decisions on your behalf. If that is not what you intend, you should create a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney only kicks in when you are determined incapacitated by a court.  These are very different documents that accomplish different goals.

The bottom line is that too much is on the line to risk even a small misunderstanding about what rights you are assigning to another person.

You Don’t Want a One-Size-Fits-All Power of Attorney

Internet-based estate planning companies offer generic versions of all types of estate planning tools, including powers of attorney. These companies advertise that their DIY estate planning tools are enforceable in every state. Unfortunately, most people who rely on these companies for their estate planning needs take them at their word. However, in reality, these online forms are generic versions that may or may not comply with your state’s current law.

Similarly, online power of attorney documents do not allow you to customize the document to the degree you may like. While most DIY power of attorneys allow you to input some information, they are largely one-size-fits-all documents intended to temporarily fill a gap until a more comprehensive plan can be put in place.

What if You Have Questions?

If you are doing something as important as creating a power of attorney, you will probably have questions that come up during the process. If you are using an online power of attorney, who will you reach out to for answers? On the other hand, when you work with an experienced estate planning lawyer, they are there with you every step of the way to make sure that you understand the document and that it accurately reflects your intentions.

Will the Power of Attorney Be Valid?

Another problem that comes up when using DIY estate planning tools is that they are often not executed properly. When you create a Florida power of attorney document, it must meet several elements before a court considers it valid. For example, only those who have the requisite physical and mental capacity can execute the agreement. In other words, you can print out a power of attorney document, but if the person assigning the decision-making abilities lacks the legal capacity to execute the document, it is meaningless.

Similarly, state law requires that you sign a Florida power of attorney in the physical presence of two witnesses. It must also be acknowledged by a notary public. When you get a power of attorney online, you’re on your own to make sure this gets done correctly. However, estate planning attorneys have notaries available in their office, as well as staff members who can serve as witnesses.

Cost is likely a consideration if you are asking yourself, Is it a good idea to make a power of attorney online? Certainly, an online power of attorney is less expensive than the custom-tailored versions available through an estate planning law firm. However, most people overestimate the cost of having a lawyer draft a power of attorney. And given everything that’s on the line, any difference in cost is money well spent.

Regardless of the reason why you need a power of attorney, your best bet is to call a Florida estate planning attorney to schedule a consultation.

Reach Out to the Dedicated South Florida Trust and Estate Lawyers at Beller & Bustamante, P.L., to Schedule a Consultation

Before concluding that an online power of attorney is the right move, cover your bases and reach out to our knowledgeable estate planning lawyers. At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we have more than 40 years of experience assisting clients from all walks of life with their varying estate planning needs. We are here to honestly answer your questions and explain how we can help. When you enlist our help, you can rest easy knowing that you will be in caring and capable hands throughout the process. To learn more and to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 904-288-4414. You can also reach us through our online form, and one of our Jacksonville estate planning lawyers will contact you shortly.