VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Estate planning protection during incapacity

Advance planning can offer many benefits to Florida residents with family in and out of state. A thorough estate plan can shield assets, limit family disputes and minimize burdensome decisions for grieving loved ones. However, business owners and others actively managing their assets may wonder what to do in cases of brief or long-term incapacity. An example shows the potentially critical role of a power of attorney.

A sole owner of a business who also draws income from real estate suffers a medical event that leaves him unconscious for several weeks. This can result in failure to meet tax and payment obligations, lost clients and suppliers, and damage to any pending court cases. A durable power of attorney changes this by giving another party legal authority to carry out these tasks. Care must be taken in drafting this estate planning document. A nondurable power of attorney, which is the standard, will cease to function during incapacity.

Trust and skill will both play large roles in selecting an individual to name in the power of attorney. In cases where candidates are difficult to find, there may be alternative strategies available. One of these is to name more than one person to the role, such as a trusted family member alongside a knowledgeable business assistant, and require that both agree to any action.

The help of an experienced attorney in drafting estate planning documents, such as a power of attorney, may result in many other options specific to the client's needs and situation. These documents should also be reviewed periodically to ensure that they are up to date.

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