In today's era of on-line forms, office supply stores, and software, it is becoming increasingly more common for people to try to prepare their own estate planning documents. Whether it is a simple Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will, a Last Will and Testament, or a Trust, there are plenty of ways that people can try to create their own estate documents. In our practice, we often see this result in an outright DISASTER!
I recently broke my crown. I'd worn the crown for a few years and it served me well. However, people noticed when I broke my crown because I was unhappy and had a pained look on my face. No, I'm not talking about the kind of crown that rests on your head---I wish I had one of those but it wasn't in the genes! The crown that I broke is of the 'dental" kind. When it broke, I learned a valuable lesson which can be applied to my estate planning law practice. Don't put things off!
In a recent blog, I discussed the difference between naming consecutive or successor agents versus naming co-agents in a Durable Power of Attorney ("DPOA"). A common question we hear when naming co-agents is whether they must act together. Stated another way, if co-agents are named, can one act alone or independently without the other being present?
An essential document in any Florida estate plan should include a Durable Power of Attorney ("DPOA"). This document allows a person to designate another person or persons to act on their behalf in connection with personal, business and financial matters. A DPOA is critical in the event a person has a health crisis or becomes severely injured or incapacitated. Elderly persons particularly benefit by having a DPOA because their designated person, i.e. their agent, can act for them on matters that they can no longer do themselves. Without a DPOA, often a court-administered guardianship becomes the only alternative.
As an estate planning lawyer, I'm often asked by clients where they should keep their original estate planning documents. Do they need to keep them in a bank safe-deposit box? Generally speaking, my advice is to keep them somewhere safe and accessible but a safe-deposit box may not be the best answer and in many instances, is actually not recommended.
As an estate planning lawyer, I always recommend that clients have both a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Durable Power of Attorney for non-medical matters. In each of those documents, the client is authorizing a person or persons to make decisions and act on their behalf. The Power of Attorney for Healthcare covers decision-making for medical and health issues; the Durable Power of Attorney for covers decision-making and taking action on non-medical matters such as finances, banking, and bill paying. So, can you authorize two or more people to act as co-agents under these instruments and if you do, can one agent act without the other or does action require all agents to act together? The simple answer in Florida is that you may name co-agents and one co-agent may act without the other co-agent.
As an estate planning attorney, it is common to see new clients come in to our office that have some old estate documents in place. It is equally common that those documents are often grossly out of date and would cause problems if there were a death or other crisis.
As estate attorneys, we commonly see situations where a fmaily member comes to us after their relative has died. They'll explain that their relative died owning property or a bank account and they want to know whether they can use the deceased person's Durable Power of Attorney to transfer these assets. The answer is a definite "No!"
Unmarried and same-sex couples face unique challenges under the law--especially when it comes to matters involving estate planning.
In recent years, Florida has "beefed up" Chapter 709, which sets forth the statutes governing Powers of Attorney. Among the directives contained in that chapter are certain duties which govern an agent authorized to act under a Power of Attorney. These duties apply notwithstanding provisions in the Power of Attorney to the contrary.