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Power of attorney is an alternative to a living trust

My elderly parents live in Bradenton. An attorney has been trying to talk them into drawing up a living trust. He said a recent change in Florida law prohibits them from naming an out-of-state resident as guardian, and a living trust would protect them in case one of them dies and the other is incapacitated. He offered to perform this service for $500. Is that legitimate? Do they need a living trust? Should it cost them $500?

Jim Kadamus

Response: According to the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a living trust is one you create during your lifetime. You can name yourself as trustee and someone else as a successor. While you are alive, it is revocable - you can end it or amend it as you please. It remains in effect should you become incapacitated, and when you die it avoids probate and guardianships that are very expensive.

It is true that Florida law has cracked down on guardianships to protect the rights of people who become incompetent. The side effects, though, make the process more complicated. Out-of-state relatives can no longer serve as guardians, and the need for attorneys and hearings has driven up the costs.

The $500 fee is apparently a reasonable one, provided it includes drawing up two wills. It is important that your parents' assets are put into the trust and that could increase the fee. If their estate is complicated, it might cost even more.

There is a cheaper alternative. If you have a close relationship with your parents and they believe they can trust you absolutely, they might consider drawing up a durable family power of attorney. It would authorize you to act as their agent should they become incapacitated, and it usually avoids the cost of guardianship.

The advantage of living trusts is that trustees are more accountable for their actions. Also, financial institutions in Florida are more likely to accept them. A family power of attorney has fewer restrictions and could be used by an unscrupulous child to rip off a parent.

Refund to be sent for stamp

In June I ordered an address stamp from Publishers Clearing House. I received a bill in July, sent them a check for $17.02, and have since written four letters asking why I did not get my stamp. I even sent them a copy of my canceled check, but I have not received a reply.

Can you help me to obtain either the stamp or a refund?

Margaret G. Reinhardt

Response: Publishers Clearing House apologizes for not having answered your previous letter (singular). In checking they found that your stamp order had been canceled, and so a refund check is being processed.

Oh yes. They look forward to servicing you in the future.

Young artists are accepted

I have an 11-year-old daughter who wants to get into art. She drawsreal good.

The classes I have checked say she has to be 15 or 16 years old. Is there anyone I can contact who is willing to teach an 11-year-old?

Terese Nettles

Response: The Art Center at 100 Seventh St. S accepts 11-year-olds.

They are sending you a schedule of classes. The phone number is 822-7872.

Credit okay for driving class

This is about the "55 Alive Mature Driving" course offered by the American Association of Retired Persons.

I live in Illinois where a law was passed in 1982 that entitles drivers who take this course to an insurance discount.

I took the course in September, and since moving to Florida for the winter I have been trying to get the discount. I have contacted my insurance company, sent in my course certificate and good record for driving more than 50 years, but I have not received an acknowledgement.

I would appreciate any advice you may offer.

Evelyn Becich

Response: Amerisure Cos. tells us that credit for your driving course is being processed. They are giving you a credit retroactive to September. The delay in processing the credit, they say, was due to a misunderstanding about what you wanted.

If you have any further problems or questions, contact Ronald E. Dunn, branch manager, at (708) 932-9455.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, c/o the City Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action. Calls will be accepted anytime except between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, while messages are being transcribed.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our recorder; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

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