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Plan for your will now, not later

Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
Traci Hudson, also known as Traci Samuel, used power-of-attorney to take more than $500,000 from the 93-year-old man whose affairs she was supposed to be managing, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [TARA MCCARTY  |  Times]
Traci Hudson, also known as Traci Samuel, used power-of-attorney to take more than $500,000 from the 93-year-old man whose affairs she was supposed to be managing, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [TARA MCCARTY | Times]
Published Jan. 4

Get your affairs in order now

Positioned for power, abuse | Dec. 29

As a life planning and elder law attorney, I care deeply about assisting my clients’ to manage their affairs and receive help if they are unable to manage their own affairs. It is essential to work closely with your attorney before your abilities decline. I cannot stress this enough. It is not enough to “have” a power of attorney (or will or trust or whatever). It is critical that your power of attorney (or will or trust) is carefully drafted to meet your specific needs, you understand how it works, and your agent(s) are trustworthy.

If you have concerns about your preferred agent, your attorney can suggest methods of improving accountability. Without pre-planning, you may end up the subject of an extremely expensive and intrusive guardianship proceeding. Still, a guardianship cannot guarantee that your assets will be managed appropriately.

Even after careful planning and drafting, no one can guarantee that an agent won’t abuse the trust placed in them. In those cases, it is important to identify misdeeds as early as possible, remove the agent’s authority, and seek compensation. A new organization called the Professional Fiduciary Council of Florida has been established to identify, credential and support professional fiduciaries who have knowledge, experience, and liability insurance. Check it out, and get your affairs in order.

Catherine Blackburn, Gulfport

Take care of our elderly

Positioned for power, abuse | Dec. 29

This article rightly shows the importance of local news. As a geriatrician (retired) and former volunteer with the Long Term Care Ombudsman under the Florida Agency For Health Care, I have seen cases of abuse (emotional, physical and financial). My graduate fellowship paper was on this topic. Shakespeare best describes the last stage of life as second childishness. We are all destined to arrive there sans some unforeseen event. The elderly need protections against abuse just like laws against child abuse. But Florida is heading in reverse. The Legislature recently passed laws making it more difficult to discover abuse in assisted living and nursing home facilities in a timely manner and the governor signed the legislation. In 2015 the Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Scott passed legislation that decreased some inspections to twice yearly from quarterly and took away some responsibility of volunteers in the program. Your legislators need to know you want more, not less, supervision of facilities caring for your parents, friends and, yes, maybe you in future years.

David Robinson, St. Petersburg

A public service

The front page | Dec. 29

Tampa Bay Times front page for Dec. 29, 2019 [Tampa Bay Times]

Your articles titled “Positioned for power abuse” and “Police charity mostly a cop-out” are excellent examples of the idioms “Follow the money” and “Show me the money.”

I would like to think these types of abuse were being properly addressed. But, my life experiences have led me to believe otherwise. Nevertheless, your paper is doing a public service to bring them to the attention of your readers.

Brad Stern, Clearwater

Why we need transit

11 months of the best in letters to the editor | Dec. 29

Thank you for running the best letters to the editor, 2019. I had missed the one regarding where the Tampa Bay Rays play. Once again, the complaint is that the games are hard to get to. The writer describes his journey by car from north Tampa and says that St. Petersburg is just too inconvenient. I disagree. I don’t believe that the problem is where in Tampa Bay the team plays. It is the lack of a sensible transportation system for a metro area this size. For 15 years I split my time between St. Petersburg and Washington. I have always gone to Rays and Nationals games — here by bike or car (downtown to the free shuttle), in D.C. by Metro. Football, soccer and basketball in D.C. are also on Metro lines. And it was possible to go to Orioles games by train to Camden Yards. If we had a good rail and bus system in the Tampa Bay area there would be many more options for the Rays because people from all over the area could get to the games and not worry about traffic and parking. Start thinking outside the car.

Susan Christensen, St. Petersburg

A fund-raising warning

Police charity mostly a cop-out | Dec. 29

Screenshots from a donation page from the website of the Law Enforcement Officers Relief Fund explains the benefits of giving to the organization. [Center for Public Integrity ]

This article should serve as a warning for any and all nonprofit organizations — and donors to those organizations — about the often overlooked pitfalls of hiring an outside fundraiser to help solicit donations. In partial defense of the fundraising entities, yes, you need to pay your employees for their work. But don’t take advantage of often naive nonprofits whose own employees and boards of directors don’t fully understand the underestimated costs of hiring someone else to do their fund- raising. As a long-serving member of various nonprofit organizations myself, I always made it a point to question each organization’s expenses, not as a fault-finding action but more as a technique to draw attention to ways in which the organization might reduce those expenses and transfer donated funds directly to those who we were pledged to assist. I hope that your article serves as a wake-up call to the many well-intentioned nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area who make use of outside agencies to solicit donations. These nonprofits were established to serve a valuable cause. Let’s make sure that mission is met.

Kirk Hazlett, Riverview

The writer is an adjunct professor of communication at the University of Tampa and ethics officer for the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Monitor the money

Police charity mostly a cop-out | Dec. 29

I subscribe to the CharityWatch Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report. This is by far the best charity rating organization. Most charities rated in their newsletter are worthy except for two categories; Crime and Fire Prevention and Veterans and Military. These two categories have over half “F” rated with teeny percentages of funds going to programs. If I am solicited by a police or military charity I assume it is a scam until proven otherwise. I have no desire to buy a larger yacht for “administrators” and “solicitors.”

Pete Wilford, Holiday

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