I recently receive a copy of Quicken Willmaker 2009. I have previously written about many articles about the unintended results that occur with Do It yourself and Free Estate Planning Documents created by individuals without the advice of councel and the problems with online document preparation services like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer.
I decided to try out a few of the documents in Quicken to see if they had improved the quality and accuracy of their Florida documents.
Problems and issues I encountered with the Quicken Durable Power of Attorney.
1) Willmaker 2009 now attempts to verify duplicate names but only catches them in the event that they are spelled exactly the same, they do no use any fuzzy logic to find and warn about names that are close. For Example David Goldman could be the agent for Dave Goldman, David M. Goldman, or David Michael Goldman. Although it will catch an exact duplicate, this problem allows for potentially invalid documents to be created.
2) The instructions suggest that the DPA must be filed at the courthouse to become effective, this is not true in Florida.
3) The instructions suggest that a revocation is not effective unless you file it with the courthouse and notify anyone who has a copy with the revocation. Although this is a good idea, the point of filing it with the courthouse is to put the world on notice. It is impossible to know everyone who would have received a copy or acted upon the validity of a Durable Power of attorney in the past. This can cause the individual to spend more than $120 in unnecessary filing fees.
4) The document does not comply the the Florida Statutes for Durable Powers of Attorney and as such the individual or agents have no right to sue and collect costs and fees associated with the improper denial of authority granted under the Durable power of attorney.
5) The document is effective upon the execution of the agreement, there is no option for deployment contingent (becoming effective upon incapacity), nor is there an option to limit the time that the document will be effective for. This is significant problem because it assumes that everyone wants to grant their agent the power to do anything they want and right now. In fact, very few individuals want to grant this type of power, and most who initially do, change their mind after learning what they will be doing from an attorney.
6) Their instructions warn that their conversion utility may not make an accurate conversion to Microsoft Word or RTF formatting so you need to verify that the versions are the same. This seems like something that they should have done prior to releasing the product to the public.
7) They inaccurately state that the witnesses signatures must appear on the same page as yours.
8) they do not save the footers and suggest that you break each section into a unique document and insert footers with the instructions found in the manual. This is not necessary and for most documents the footers are unnecessary and not a requirement of Florida Law.
9) States that the agent must have the original Durable Power of Attorney to act. A copy of the Durable Power of attorney is just as valid as the original. In fact, if you follow their MANDATORY (but not really mandatory) instructions of filing the document in the county records the original may be kept they the county.
10) They recommend asking your Agent not to use it unless your incapacitated. There is no requirement for them not to act, and no liability for the agent if he does act. This is not the proper way of dealing with this issue under the Florida Statutes.
11) They do have a nice warning which states that if you do not understand anything about this document you should ask a lawyer to explain it to you. We are not sure if that warning is intended for the agent or the principal.
12) Quicken appears to have a provision which creates a Pre-Need Guardian designation within their power of attorney. Typically this is a separate document which is filed in the county records. Although, if you file the recommendation and file the document in the county records, there would appear to be a public record of this request, it might be overlooked or ignored by the court because it is hidden inside a power of attorney. In addition, by statute, a DPA becomes ineffective once you receive notice of a pending petition for guardianship. This would appear to make your nomination invalid during that time.
SUMMARY: While the Quicken WIllMaker can produce a valid Durable Power of Attorney in Florida banks, businesses, and others can refuse to honor it without liability because it does not comply with the Florida statutes. You can also create invalid document, will unnecessarily spend more than an additional $120 in state filing fees, create a potentially invalid pre-need guardian selection, and expose yourself to unnecessary risk and liability.
Conclusion: For around the same price as the software and the recording fees, you can have an attorney discuss your needs and draft a document that provides you additional protections that comply with Florida law. In addition, for most people a deployment contingent Durable Power of Attorney is what is needed compared to the higher risk document created by Quicken. There are many mistakes and misguidance found within the generic documents created by the software package.
If you are looking for a Free or Low cost Durable Power of attorney, it may be less expensive and a better value to contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.