Articles Posted in Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is an important document, but sometimes having one can cause problems.

A recent Florida court ruling scored a major win in the fight against elder abuse. The case established that a health care proxy does not have the authority to waive the right to jury trial and bind a person to a contract.

The case is Hugh Moen v. Bradenton Council on Aging LLC, where the defendants, the nursing home, filed motions to dismiss and to compel binding arbitration.  The plaintiff, Moen, was the personal representative of the estate of Norma Silverthrone, appealed the order granting the motions to dismiss.  The appeals court sided with the personal representative.

Background on The Case

Norma Silverthorne was admitted to a nursing home in 2013.  Her daughter, Susan Moen, accepted a health care proxy designation on her mother’s behalf. Norma never executed a durable power of attorney in her daughter’s favor.  Susan signed the nursing home’s admission agreement, which contained a “Voluntary Arbitration Agreement.”
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A Florida DNR is a document you will not complete with your Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer. Many feel that estate planning is a great area of law because it allows people to plan ahead for how they wish to be treated medically in a scenario when someone is not able to decide on their own.  This is why we recommend that every person plan for their future through estate planning documents such as a will, trust, living will, medical and financial powers of attorney and even simple documents such as a Florida “Do Not Resuscitate Order.”

A Florida DNR, Do Not Resuscitate Order, is a form developed by the Florida Department of Health, known formally as Form 1896, that identifies a person that does not wish to be resuscitated in the event of respiratory or cardiac arrest.  This form, tells hospitals, doctors, and other health providers to not resuscitate you when certain conditions occur because you do not feel your quality of life will be sufficient after resuscitation. We recommend that everyone have a Florida DNR, Do Not Resuscitate Order, if they do not wish to be revived under certain conditions because most doctors and health care providers will attempt to resuscitate a person by default.

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It is a very common practice as people age for them to visit an attorney for estate planning and execution of a Power of Attorney in order for safeguards to be put in place and to select a trusted family member to manage their assets, should they ever become unable to do so themselves. Having a Power of Attorney in place should prevent the necessity of a guardianship from being needed, but unfortunately a Power of Attorney does not always prevent the need for a guardianship and this is why:

When a Power of Attorney is in place and the incapacitated person is being cooperative with the assistance he or she is receiving from their designated Power of Attorney and other family members, and as long as the designated Power of Attorney is only acting in the best interest of the incapacitated person, a guardianship should not be needed. However, if the incapacitated person is not being cooperative and is wasting his or her property by either giving it away, making bad purchase decisions or what have you, then the Power of Attorney does not give the authority necessary to limit the incapacitated person’s access to their property. Therefore, a guardianship would be needed in order to remove the incapacitated person’s right to manage their property.

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Many women in today’s world stay single by choice, and for those women who are married, we know divorce rates are very high. Studies also show that women are far more likely to survive their husbands. Therefore, we advise all women to create estate plans as if they are a single person.

The first step to making an estate plan is to identify a means to pay for future long term care. A 70 year old woman is likely to live another 15-20 years, which means that estate plans must now last longer than before. We encourage all of our clients to consider long term care policies and other hybrid policies, which have retained benefit features in case a policy is dropped.

The next step a single person should take is to select an executor of a will and a power of attorney agent. A failure to name these persons means a judge will one day be in charge of selecting who will serve these pivotal roles in managing the estate. It is best to name these people ahead of time so a person can ensure his or her health and estate are managed by competent people. These roles do not have to be filled by friend or relatives, so we recommend starting a “recruiting process” to find someone qualified to fill these roles. While more expensive, there are many professionals and or financial institutions that can handle these matters.

In 2011, Florida passed the Power of Attorney Act that has had a significant impact on the then existing law in an attempt to achieve greater consistency and uniformity throughout Florida. One big change the act brought about was the codification of laws regarding a third party’s ability to reject a durable power of attorney.

Now the law states that once a power of attorney is presented to a third party, the third party is required to accept or reject the power of attorney within four business days and to provide a written explanation for rejection unless the third person is not otherwise required to engage in a transaction with the principal.

Third parties in these cases are usually banks and other businesses. The issue arises when a third party questions the power of attorney or the authority of the agent, and then refuse to honor a power of attorney. First, it is important to note that banks are offered a number of protections that encourage a bank to accept the validity of a durable power of authority. Florida law provides that if a business accepts a power of attorney that appears to be valid on its face, the bank will not be liable for accepting the power of attorney. The bank will only be liable if it knows the power of attorney has been revoked and still accepts the power of attorney.

What documents do young adults need?

It’s hard to believe that when your child turns 18 years old, he or she is legally an adult. When a child reaches this milestone, the mother and father’s parental rights have terminated. This means that if the child experiences a medical emergency, the parent may not be able to help or even receive information on the child’s well being without the property authority.

A parent loses parental rights over their children due to a number of privacy laws. One important law is FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts the information a school can release about an adult student. The other is HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limit those to whom health care providers can release data.

With the current estate tax exception of $5.43 Million for an individual and $10.86 Milliion for a married couple, some estate planners have begun to question whether gifting provisions in a Durable Power of Attorney pose more risk than reward.  While it is true, that these provisions can be abused by individuals, there are several situations when estate taxes is not the primary concern and removing gifting provisions could pose a substantial risk to the individuals.

In Florida, individuals must initial next to any gifting provision for them to be valid under current law.  Generally there are those provisions which permit the amount under the annual gift tax exemption (currently $14,000 a year per person) and those which permit larger gifting.  While many estate planners may not see a need for these anymore, elder law attorneys use them all the time to protect the assets from loss due to the need for nursing home coverage for the individual or their spouse.  So while it may be true that less than 0.2%  (2 in 1000) people are actually subject to estate taxes, many more will need long term care.  Without these important gifting provisions, individuals could end up being bankrupt or leaving little or no money for their surviving spouse to live on.

In addition, there is no guarantee that the estate tax exemption will continue to increase or remain the same. Congress could change the numbers in the future and without gifting provisions, your family may not be able to decrease the amount of your estate that would be subject to estate taxes.

As most young adults are about to return to college, most parents do not think about the fact that not that their child is 18 they are an adult in the eyes of the law. Deborah Jacobs has written an article on this in Forbes outlining two documents that are needed. Most professionals would agree that there are actually 3 that are needed.

Now that they are an adult, parents can no longer make health care of the financial decisions for their children without the legal authorization to do so.

If a child or young adult is injured or needs help with a financial matter, a parent cannot speak with doctors or help the child with financial decisions with our a power of attorney. Once a child reaches the age of 18, it is important to prepare financial and medical powers of attorney to that someone can help the child if they are injured or disabled without having to go through the expensive process of setting up a guardianship.

Many people see joint accounts as a cheap and easy way to avoid probate, since joint property passes to the join owner at death, but these accounts can actually be quite risky when it comes to estate planning.

Joint ownership of accounts can be a great way to easily pass assets to another owner at death. Joint ownership is also a great way to plan for an elder person’s incapacity, since the joint owner of the account can pay bills and manage investments if the primary owner falls ill or suffers from any other sickness.

There are some potential downsides to joint ownership of an account. The biggest factor to consider is the risk of joint ownership. Joint owners have complete access to the account, and the ability to use the account funds for any purpose. When children are made joint owners of an account, it is often the case they can take money without consulting with the other children.

Probate is the system the court uses to administer a person’s estate, either through a will or through intestate succession. Clients often ask for ways to avoid the probate process, such as adding a child to their bank account or adding the child’s name to the deed.

Adding a Child to a Bank Account

In most cases, adding a child to your bank account is not a good idea. A parent who adds a child to his or her bank account, may interfere with the will, and could put the account’s funds at risk.

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