Life is full of instances where taking a decision seems to be extremely challenging. The task is even more difficult if the decision concerns the medical treatment for a loved one that is incapable of deciding for him or her self. Deciding health care matters for patients that cannot do so is emotionally wrenching for families and represents an ethical dilemma for physicians. This difficult scenario is better illustrated with the Terri Schiavo case.

Terry Schiavo Sad Case.

Ms. Schiavo was sustained by artificial hydration and nutrition through a feeding tube for 15 years after suffering a cardiac arrest, triggered by extreme hypokalemia caused by an eating disorder. Ms. Schiavo’s husband, Michael Schiavo, faced a public legal struggle with his wife’s parents and siblings about whether Ms. Schiavo’s life-sustaining medical treatment should be continued or stopped. Mr. Schiavo and the two neurologists that he selected to testify in court stood for the position that Ms. Schiavo’s condition met the criteria for a persistent vegetative state and believed that her treatment should be stopped. Ms. Schiavo’s parents, siblings and the neurologists testifying in court for Ms. Schiavo’s estate stood for the position that Ms. Schiavo’s condition could improve in the future and believed that treatment should be continued.

An agent is someone you chose to act on your behalf. If an agent acts on your behalf and under the scope of his or her authority, then you will more likely than not be bound to his or her decisions. However, your agent has the fiduciary duty to act with the highest degree of good faith on your behalf. If your agent failed to act under the scope of his or her authority or acted against your best interest, then he or she is liable to you and to your successors in interest.


1. File a petition in court requesting the judge to terminate your agent’s authority, to remove the agent, or to grant an appropriate relief.

2. Show the court that you shared a relationship with your agent where you placed your trust and confidence in him or her; and your agent undertook such trust and assumed a duty to advice, counsel, and/or protect you.

In Florida, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) is a document that allows you to designate someone to act on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated. The person creating the DPA is known as the “principal” and the person receiving authority to act on your behalf is known as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” Depending on the DPA, your agent will have authority to handle your financial transactions or to oversee your medical care.

Steps to Create a DPA

DPA for your finances: With this type of durable power of attorney, you can give a trusted person as much authority over your finances as you like. Your agent can handle simple tasks like sorting through your mail, or more complicated ones like watching over your investments. To create a Financial DPA follow the following steps:

Do you own firearms? If so, an estate plan should include provisions on how to deal with your firearms in the event of your death. The problem with traditional estate planning or using the state’s default rules is that they are both designed to deal with objective decision-making while the thought process involved in giving someone a firearm is objective as well as subjective.

Think about the following issues that do not cause problems with a bank account or other financially based asset but could be devastating with firearms.

1) The location you your children or beneficiaries live at when you die.

Thumbnail image for probate.jpgWho has the right to make funeral / burial arrangements in Florida?

Florida Statute 497.005 defines human remains and who is the legally authorized person to dispose of the human remains.

38) ”Human remains” or “remains,” or “dead human body” or “dead human bodies,” means the body of a deceased human person for which a death certificate or fetal death certificate is required under chapter 382 and includes the body in any stage of decomposition.

One of most common topics we discuss with our business and estate planning clients is asset protection. The best time to do asset protection is when you do not have any known or potential creditors. Unfortunately, this is often the least likely time to consider protecting your assets.

Today we have some innovative trusts that provide asset protection without the risks, expenses, and IRS compliance associated with Foreign ssset protection trusts or Domestic asset protection trusts (DAPT). A domestic asset protection trust is a trust created under state statute (not in Florida) which purports to protect the assets while still giving you access to the assets when there are no creditors. Unfortunately many states will not recognize the protections when there are assets which are located in another state. For example if you have your Florida property or bank account in a Nevada or other state’s DAPT, it is likely that a court in Florida may not offer you the protections you have expected.

Unlike a DAPT which relies on another state’s laws, our Florida Asset Protection Trust is an IGAP Trust which is based on statutory and common law principles regarding Trusts and Property and can be structured to protect the principal or principle and income of the property being held by the trust. The IGAP trust has no adverse tax consequences like some trusts do because it is taxed just as if you owned the property yourself. In addition some asset protection trusts lose the ability to increase the basis in the assets to the value at your death, but the IGAP Florida asset protection trust does not have this problem and receives the same tax treatment as if you owned the property yourself.

Forbes has reported that nearly 2.5 million Americans die each year without a will. While many states have default rules that define who will receive your assets, sometimes they do not cover your specific circumstances. Richard Blum, a Holocaust survivor and New York real estate developer appears to be one such example.

If you die without a will or living trust (“intestate”), state law will determine how your assets which are subject to probate are distributed, and the result may not be what you would want.

In Florida this generally means your probate assets will go to your spouse, then your children, then to parents, then to siblings and so on. While this may be fine for the traditional family, we see more families with children from outside the current marriage or relationships where they may not be a relationship that is legally recognized by the state.

Thumbnail image for Last Will and Testament 1.jpgProbate can have the reputation of being a nightmare, and many hate the idea of going through this process. If the idea of transferring your assets through probate daunts you, then you will be happy to know that living trusts can avoid probate. The probate process is usually more expensive and time consuming than having a living trust set up to transfer assets. Moreover, a living trust has many more advantages than skipping probate. An estate-planning attorney can discuss with you the specific advantages that a living trust will bring to your estate plan and can assist you with setting up one to effectively address your needs and the needs of your beneficiaries. Meanwhile, here are 6 general benefits of using a living trust in your estate plan.

BENEFIT #1: A living trust can protect the assets in the trust for certain beneficiaries.

Sometimes, the intended beneficiaries are not capable to handle their full inheritance. For example, many states do not allow minors to own property. And even if a child was old enough to receive property legally, a full inheritance can detriment the child by tempting him to quit school or start an early retirement. Moreover, there are those beneficiaries who will spend all their inheritance at their first opportunity. A living trust can prevent any of these scenarios by allowing you to appoint a trustee to keep your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. The trustee would invest the assets in your trust for your beneficiaries’ benefit until they are capable of handling their inheritance.

Over the last year I worked with an intern in our office of a Law Review article for Texas Tech University. This article describes problems with current estate planning and takes the premise that most estate planners have become lazy because of advancements in technology. That is, most only ask their clients about issues that their software is capable of addressing. We identify 6 primary areas that are not addressed in most estate plans:

  1. Firearms;
  2. Digital Assets;
  3. Asset Protection;
  4. Life Planning;
  5. Controlling from the Grave; and
  6. Pets

The citation for the article is
David Goldman & Charles Jamison, The Future of Estate Planning: The Multigenerational Life Plan, 5 Est. Plan. & Community Prop. L. J. 1 (2012).
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Estate Planning.jpgA Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) allows you, the “principal”, to designate someone, the “agent”, to act on your behalf. Depending on the DPA, your agent will have authority to oversee your financial affairs or your medical treatment. Having a DPA is a good idea, but only if it is done properly. Otherwise, a DPA will probably not serve its intended purpose and it might create additional problems. To avoid this, contact an estate-planning attorney to assist you with this issue. Meanwhile, this blog discusses three important reasons to hire an estate-planning attorney to draft your DPA.

1. A DPA is effective right after it is executed.

Before October 2011, a DPA could remain “dormant” after it was executed. This type of DPA is known as “springing DPA” and is not effective until the occurrence of the event specified in the document, like the principal’s incapacity. However, pursuant to a revision to Florida Statutes section 709.2108, a DPA is ineffective if it provides that it is to become effective at a future date or upon the occurrence of a future event or contingency. Therefore, springing DPAs are no longer recognized by Florida and a DPA is effective the moment that is executed. So if you want a DPA to protect your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated, your agent will have authority to oversee your finances as soon as the DPA is created. This can be a problem. Even if your agent is a person that you completely trust, like your spouse, the fact that he or she has authority over your finances can be against your interests. An estate-planning attorney from the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC conveniently addresses this issue by offering an escrow service in which you chose the attorney as your agent and instruct him or her what to do in the event that the DPA is used. Meanwhile, the DPA will be kept in a secure place and will not be used unless you instruct the attorney to do so, a court mandates the attorney to do so, or two Affidavits from two different Doctors state that you are incapable of deciding for yourself. This way you can be better assured that your agent will not abuse his or her power over your affairs.

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