Practice Areas

Our Goal

We seek to provide you with advice based upon your needs. We value our clients and “one size does not fit all”. You need plans tailored to meet the current and future life events that face all of us. We will listen to you, discuss your options, and prepare a plan personalized for your circumstances.

And in detail…

We discuss our services in detail below. Feel free to review all information and contact us to discuss your specific matter. We are a boutique law firm and work closely with you. We are happy to meet with you at our office, your home, your office, or a coffee shop.

Guardianship and Guardian Advocacy

Is Mom driving and getting lost? Is a neighbor calling you because Dad has a new friend “borrowing” money? Are you concerned about protecting your intellectually disabled child at 18?

In detail…

What are the options if someone doesn’t have the ability to understand the estate planning documents I need them to sign to act on their behalf?

What do you mean I can’t make decisions for my child with special needs now that they turned 18?

My minor child will be receiving a personal injury settlement netting more than $15,000 – the PI attorney said I must have a guardianship. I don’t understand. I’m the parent.

These are just a few examples of scenarios where a guardianship might be necessary. Because every situation is unique, a consultation with a qualified attorney is always the first step to determine if court intervention is necessary. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

Guardianships should always be a last resort. We help you explore all alternatives to having the court involved before we make that recommendation.

You may think you planned appropriately by signing documents like a Durable Power of Attorney or Designation of a Healthcare Surrogate, but sometimes the documents are insufficient. In other cases, maybe the individual never had capacity to sign estate planning documents, so we must have the court appoint a decision maker. The need to seek court oversight is generally the result of no advance directives, misuse of powers of attorney, or family conflict.

The Court can appoint a guardian for any person at any age. If the person is under 18, the appointment is generally to manage property the child receives from an inheritance or personal injury settlement. For a person over 18, the appointment is because the individual is unable to manage personal or financial matters.

A Guardian Advocate may be appointed if a person is diagnosed, prior to 18, with an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, or Prader-Willi syndrome. The disability must be substantial and expected to continue indefinitely. This option is less invasive than a guardianship but isn’t always the best alternative for someone with special needs.

Basics you should know:

Both guardianships and guardian advocacies are court proceedings.

They don’t happen overnight.

They can be costly and invasive.

Guardianships require an attorney to start the process, throughout the duration of the guardianship, and to close it. We pride ourselves on being effective and efficient to keep costs down, but fees and expenses are unavoidable.

Guardianships and Guardian Advocacies take away rights of the individual to act for themselves.

Guardians and Guardian Advocates must qualify to the appointed. It doesn’t matter if you’re a relative. There will still be background investigations and credit checks.

The court will supervise the relationship once you are appointed. There will be certain things you can and can’t do without the court’s permission.

You’ll need to meet an educational requirement.

There will be annual paperwork that will be required to be submitted.

We can help guide you through all these concerns. Together we have over 40 years’ experience in the guardianship community. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

Steps for Appointment of a Guardian for an Adult

The legal process for the appointment of a Guardian for an adult starts with a Petition to Determine Incapacity and a Petition to Appoint Guardian. The Incapacity Petition gives the Court information regarding the individual who may be unable to meet his or her personal or financial needs. An attorney is appointed for the individual to provide legal help during the incapacity process. An Examining Committee is appointed to evaluate the alleged incapacity person and to report to the Court. Lastly, there is a hearing to determine if the person is incapacitated.

At the same time, the Petition to Appoint Guardian is filed to tell the Court about the person who is incapacitated and the person who wants to the guardian. If the person is determined to be incapacitated and there are no alternatives to appointing a guardian, then the court will consider the Petition to Appoint Guardian to determine if the guardian is qualified to serve. The court then issues the necessary paperwork for the guardian to act on behalf of the person under guardianship. Court supervision will then continue for the “life” of the guardianship.

Steps for Appointment of a Guardian Advocate

If a person is diagnosed, prior to 18, with an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, or Prader-Willi syndrome, then the legal process for the appointment of a Guardian Advocate starts with a Petition to Appoint Guardian Advocate. The petition informs the Court about the individual and his or her special needs and who wants to be the Guardian Advocate. An attorney is appointed for the individual. A hearing before the Court determines if the person meets the requirements for appointment of a Guardian Advocate. The court then issues the necessary paperwork for the guardian advocate to act on behalf of the individual. Court supervision will then continue for the “life” of the guardian advocacy.

Steps for Appointment of a Guardian for a Minor

If a child inherits property or receives money from a personal injury settlement with the net over $15,000, a Petition to Appoint Guardian, for property only, is required by Florida law. If both parents die, a Petition to Appoint Guardian, for person only, is filed.  Sometimes, there may be a Guardian of Person and Property for a child.

In detail…

After a person dies, the Court may need to order the transfer of property to heirs or beneficiaries. The type of proceeding will depend on the date of death, assets, and if there is a Will. The most common types of probate administration are summary and formal.

While many people think probate should be avoided at all costs, and there are ways to do this, there may still be a need for Court involvement.

Are there assets that remain in the individual’s sole name?

Is there a beneficiary named?

Is there a Will? Who has the original?

Don’t be overwhelmed with trying to decide which type of probate administration you need. We can help determine the best course of action for your situation. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

Formal Administration

If a Personal Representative is appointed, this is a formal administration. If a person dies with a Will, it is known as a testate administration. If a person dies without a Will, it is known as an intestate administration. If the person died outside of Florida and an estate is opened in another state, the proceeding is an ancillary administration.

Whether testate or intestate, formal administration starts with a Petition which gives the Court information about the person who died, who wants to be appointed Personal Representative, and the property the Court needs to transfer to the heirs. Personal Representatives will be required to sign an Oath, file an Inventory of the property in the estate, publish a Notice to Creditors, and eventually, when the estate has been fully administered, a Petition for Discharge. You’ll need to work closely with an attorney to accomplish these and other tasks. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

Summary Administration

Florida does allow for streamlined proceedings to transfer assets after a person dies. The streamlined proceeding is determined based upon the date of death, value of probate assets, or both.

Probate

What do I do with Mom’s Will? How do I get the classic car Dad always promised me at his death? Why won’t the bank give me the cash from Mom’s accounts?

Planning/Special Needs

Who will make your medical decisions when you can’t? Who do you trust to handle your finances when you need help? How can I provide for my intellectually disabled child and protect their benefits?

In detail…

I’m Fine.
The future will happen whether I plan or not.
AND IF YOU DON’T, THE COURT WILL PLAN FOR YOU.

PLANNING/SPECIAL NEEDS

Advance planning is the cornerstone to making your wishes known to your family and friends when you are no longer able to make decisions. It also offers you the opportunity to protect the financial future of a family member who has special needs.

When you do advance planning, you are in control. You make decisions and let family and friends know what you want and avoids crisis decisions. It also helps save time, money and frustration that a court intervention can easily cause for those family members that are left with a mess because you didn’t plan.

Basic Estate Planning Documents

Whether you need one document or all of them will depend on your individual circumstances. Everyone 18 and older should have estate planning documents. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

The most common advance directives are a Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Living Will.

Durable Power of Attorney

The document provides authority to 1 or more people to manage your financial affairs.

Health Care Surrogate Designation 

This allows the person you choose to access medical information and consent to medical treatment.

Living Will

As you near the end of life, this is your written preference as to life sustaining procedures when you are unable to communicate. It provides direction to you family and friends of your decisions and alleviates, some but not all, of the anguish they face at this time.

Last Will and Testament

Commonly referred to as a Will, the document states who you want to receive your property after you die. It is for property only in your name. A Will is only given effectiveness when it is submitted to the court during the probate process.

Revocable/Living Trust

There are many types of trusts. The common element to all trusts is that the Trust is the legal owner of the assets in the name of the Trust. The Trust determines who controls the assets and how the funds are used for you, your family, and anyone else you choose.

Special Needs

A family member with Special Needs has unique future considerations. We can help with First Party and Third Party Special Needs Trusts if appropriate. We take a holistic approach when discussing your estate plan as one size does not fit all.

Supportive Decision Making

An individual with an intellectual disability or mental health diagnosis may need assistance in making decisions. Planning can include a supported decision-making agreement to meet the individual’s needs.  The plan is a voluntary agreement between an individual and those who will provide support. The plan is complimentary to other advance directives, allows autonomy, and may avoid the need for guardianship.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the terms. We can help determine the best estate plan for your situation. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US