Many individual estate plans include durable power of attorneys. Those who employ this method should realize that a new Florida law could change the way this document is administered. This law went into effect in October 2011, but many still do not realize that it could affect their will execution plans. It allows you to give additional powers to the person who is designated to make important financial decisions when you are incapacitated.

It is important to realize that these so-called “superpowers” may not always be in your best interest. Your attorney will help you decide whether to allow your designee to change your estate plan, create new trusts, make financial gifts, change beneficiaries on accounts and waive certain rights to special annuities. You may truly want to give your designee these powers, but you need to realize that they can also be used in an unethical fashion.

If you have a large estate, it might behoove you to allow your designee to make gifts; this process could conceivably reduce the amount of estate tax you pay at the end of your life. Your agent could also save you money by creating or modifying trusts. In addition, the power to transfer assets could come in handy when your agent decides to move holdings so you qualify for Medicaid and other government programs.

Ultimately, you need to be absolutely certain that your designee or agent will act in your best interests when you give them power of attorney. Husbands and wives have been known to turn on each other, and children have abused their power of attorney to harm their parents. Do not assume that your relatives are ready for the full responsibility that could accompany these power of attorney changes.

If you have concerns about your estate plan, consider seeking the assistance of a qualified probate attorney. These professionals can help you learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities, protecting your assets throughout your life and at its end.

Luis E. Barreto