Posts Tagged ‘Stetson University College of Law’

Beware Of Holiday Scams

DECEMBER 10, 2012 VOLUME 19 NUMBER 45
This week we offer season-relevant advice from our friends in the Elder Consumer Protection Program at Stetson University College of Law’s Center for Excellence in Elder Law. We share this information with their permission:

Top 5 Holiday Scams

During the holiday season, fraudsters find their way onto the naughty list each year with clever new scams. Consumer authorities warn that the holidays offer fraudsters plenty of opportunities to prey upon unwary consumers. This year, be sure to keep your eye out for these “popular” scams and avoid becoming a victim:

  1. Gift Card Scams. Gift cards can be tampered with, especially in stores with large gift card displays. Try to purchase gift cards straight from the cashier or customer service representative.
  2. Fake Vacation Rentals. Fraudsters will often advertise property they do not own, and use personal information on a bogus rental application to commit identity theft. When booking a vacation rental, use a reputable realtor that you can meet with in person.
  3. Fake Holiday Jobs. Work-from-home job offers may appear to be a good source of extra cash during the holidays. However, if an employer asks you to make substantial payments up front for materials, or asks you for personal or financial information, then you could be a potential scam victim.
  4. Charity Fraud. Not every person asking you for a donation is working for a legitimate charity. Be sure to confirm that the charity exists, and avoid cash donations. Rather donate with a check made payable to the charity.
  5. Internet Shopping Scams. Online merchants may advertise unbeatable prices, but be wary. You may be required to purchase a large quantity of items to get the deal, and what you see may not be what you get. Get information and reviews about the merchant before placing your order.

 

Durable Powers of Attorney Are Important But Dangerous

APRIL 26, 2010  VOLUME 17, NUMBER 14
A power of attorney is one of the most important, powerful and dangerous documents you will ever sign. Why is it important? Because your family has no inherent right or power to handle your finances in the event that you become incapacitated. Why is it dangerous? Because it is literally a license to steal.

Of course the agent named in your durable power of attorney is not supposed to steal from you. In fact, he or she can go to jail for doing so. But the whole point of the power of attorney is to make it easier for someone to handle your finances without court oversight, and without having to answer to banks or others. Too often agents abuse those powers of attorney.

So why is it important for you to sign a power of attorney? Because the alternative is, for most people, even more disturbing. Your family members and even your most trusted advisers are not able to handle your bank accounts, pay your bills, buy or sell property or protect against abuses by others — unless you have given them authority to do so in an appropriate document. That usually means a power of attorney.

There are alternatives, of course. You could create a living trust, name a successor trustee and transfer your assets into the trust. That may make it a little bit easier for your successor to handle your assets, but it does not provide any additional protection. You could simply add a trusted person to the title on each of your accounts — but that provides even fewer safeguards, and exposes your property to claims leveled against the now-joint owner of your assets.

Or you could simply hope never to need anyone to act on your behalf. Then when someone needs to act they will have to go through the process of securing a conservatorship over your estate (what some states call a guardianship of your estate). That provides better protection, but perhaps at a greater cost than you want to incur — and it means the court, rather than your family member or trusted adviser, having the ultimate authority.

That is why almost everyone we counsel ends up signing a durable power of attorney. That is also why it is so critical to make sure you have selected your agent carefully, warned them about the limitations on their authority, and provided them enough information so that they can act appropriately.

Want to know more about durable powers of attorney? Check out our new White Paper on durable powers, prepared by us for our friend and colleague Slade V. Dukes, Program Fellow for the Stetson University College of Law‘s Elder Consumer Protection Program. While there look at our White Papers on other topics, too, including Estate Planning, Guardianship and Long Term Care Planning.

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