One of the cornerstones of our mission to create estate plans “that work” is our annual client meeting. Every spring client members of our LifeLegacy program gather to hear updates on the practice, learn about legislative and other legal changes of the past year, socialize, and discuss topics of vital importance to their estate planning. This year over 40 clients participated in one of our liveliest discussions ever.

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We recently have been involved in a case which highlights the distinction between exploitation and guardianship. An elderly gentleman was being systematically robbed by a younger woman he was infatuated with. She obtained power of attorney and withdrew over $100,000 from his accounts in less than 4 months, before the banks froze those accounts, reported suspicious activity to DCF (Florida Department of Children and Families), and a third party intervened to file a guardianship. Had she continued at that pace, he would have been flat broke in a little over a year.

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Not all estate planning “packages” of documents contain a Designation of Preneed Guardian.  But, this oft overlooked document can make a big difference if someone challenges your advance directives or Power of Attorney in court. Who would challenge your documents? You might be surprised.

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There is a lot of talk currently going on in Washington about the estate tax. Remember; however, the estate tax currently affects a very small and very wealthy number of Americans, with only the estates of about 2 out of every 1,000 Americans who die facing the tax.

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In the recent case of Smith v. Smith, our Florida Supreme Court addressed the question of what happens to a person found to be legally incapacitated, who had a guardian appointed for them, and had the right to contract removed.  Can that person marry?

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One of our first admonitions to clients seeking to become appointed personal representative of a decedent’s estate and is to secure all automobiles and not let anyone drive them.  Under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, the estate can be held vicariously liable if someone drives the car and injures others in an accident.  Once a person has been appointed personal representative and the probate case opened, the personal representative has personal responsibility for those automobiles.

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Following up on other potentially problematic legislation which has not been codified into law, we have the Florida Electronic Wills Act. The bad news is this potentially disastrous law actually passed both houses of the Florida Legislature.  The good news is Governor Scott vetoed the bill and gave very thoughtful reasons for doing so.

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Sometimes the best decision by a legislature is not to pass a bill.  Among the bills that did not pass the Florida Legislature in 2017 was Senate Bill 228, which would have made POLST a law in Florida.  It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  About twenty states have enacted POLST legislation.

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