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Are ‘drivers’ true helpers, or scammers?

February 2, 2018
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

My husband and I have been in Cape Coral for many years and love it. Recently, my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and he also has early onset Alzheimer's. We are no longer able to drive, so we found two local men that have transported us to doctors for the past month. They seem very nice. This week, they offered to become my attorney-in-fact through a Durable Power of Attorney, so they can handle banking and other financial issues for us. They also suggested that we amend our wills to give them our house when we both die. We have two children and 7 grandchildren that live outside the area, and have not spoken with them in the past month, we are a little embarrassed to say we can't drive anymore, and we don't want to worry them.

- Stacey H.

Dear Stacey,

I am sorry to hear about your husband's diagnoses, and I hope those matters are being effectively managed and he is comfortable. My grandmother, who lives in Cape Coral and is 97 years old, stopped driving several years back, and I know that transition ca be difficult. You certainly have nothing to be embarrassed about, though. In fact, your family may be relieved to learn that you have someone assisting with driving.

However, I am concerned about your relationship with the drivers. It is unusual for someone who has known you only for a few weeks to request a Durable Power of Attorney. This document can give significant power over your finances. This could include taking money from your bank accounts, or even selling your home! I recommend that our clients do not provide a Power of Attorney to anyone they do not know very well, and that they can trust with their lives. If you signed anything giving them a power of attorney, these powers can be revoked through a Revocation of Power of Attorney, which should be recorded in the public record to put everyone on notice.

As for the will change, that is the item that is a very large "red flag." Someone who is providing you a service should not be asking to be a beneficiary to your assets, no matter what your family situation may be. Before making any changes to your will or any other documents that would give your house to people who are not known long to you, I highly recommend you speak with your family or an attorney. There are also other asset protection reasons to have your family be the heirs to your home. Based on what you have written, you may want to consider using a new driver to assist you and your husband.

Unfortunately, there are a few people that prey on those who appear vulnerable. If you have already made the changes requested by your driver, I recommend you see an attorney immediately to ensure you and your husband are not scammed. You have worked your whole life for a good home, it would be a tragedy for that work to be stolen from you.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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