Good news. The electronic wills and remote notarization bill died again this year. (For more details, see last year’s comments.) https://cramerlawcenter.com/areas-of-practice/florida-electronic-wills-act/. The Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section is continuing to work with legislators to try to come up with a bill that contains adequate protections against exploitation of Florida citizens, or else continue to fight it. I still think it is just a bad idea. Stay tuned.
Questionable news. A bill was passed to create a civil cause of action for an injunction to protect a vulnerable adult. Like most well-intentioned ideas, this one can have unintended consequences. We can all agree that exploitation of a vulnerable adult is bad. However, this bill allows virtually anyone to file a petition to “freeze” an allegedly “vulnerable” adult’s bank or investment account. Recent experience shows us that if the petition is not well-founded, it can cost the “vulnerable” adult as much or more as might otherwise have been misappropriated.
Even without this law, we recently had a case where Merrill, Lynch—without specific legal justification—froze our client’s bank account. It cost our client over $50,000.00 to go through the court process to get it unfrozen. Merrill had well founded concerns that our client was being exploited, but rather than taking a more limited approach, took it upon themselves to freeze his account. Although there was no “legal” authority for this act, there may be language buried in the fine print of your Merrill, Lynch account agreement permitting them to do so. This law now specifically permits such actions.
Maybe this bill won’t be abused, but like most things in the guardianship world, you are going to end up “exploited” either way. Either it is the drug addicted younger woman who has you convinced that she loves you, who takes your money, or it is the well – meaning guardians or financial institutions who overstep their roles, and take your money. Only a well thought out estate plan, executed by trusted helpers, who have been hand selected by you and educated on their roles, and continually updated over time can provide the peace of mind that such exploitation won’t happen to you.