Frequently Asked Questions

The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. As the law is always changing, this information may not reflect the most current law. This information is not intended to form an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.

General

We charge $250 for a one-hour consultation if you do not retain our firm. However, if you retain our firm, the consultation is complimentary.  In order to secure your appointment, a credit card number will be collected at the time you book your appointment. The credit card will not be charged unless you do not retain the attorney.

We are available by appointment only. Failure to cancel your appointment at least 24 hours in advance may result in a $50 cancellation fee.

When appropriate, we offer phone and video consultations. All will signings must be done in person.

Our office is located at 1968 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin, Florida 34698. We are on Alternate 19, north of Main St. and south of Curlew Rd.

 

Guardianship

Guardianships are legal proceedings where the court determines whether someone is incapacitated, and if so, who should make medical and financial decisions for that person. They take place before the Court. If a person if found to be incapacitated, the Court will appoint a guardian to make medical and/or financial decisions for that person. The guardian is then accountable to the Court until the guardianship ends.

Generally speaking, the answer is no.  In order to sign a power of attorney, a health care surrogate or any other estate planning document, the person must be able to know and comprehend what they are signing, why they are signing it and who will be managing their affairs. In many instances, people suffering from dementia do not know these things and therefore cannot sign new documentation?

It may be that a guardianship is the only way of helping him or her. Guardianship is a process by which the court signs documents giving someone the ability to manage some or all of another person's affairs.

Yes, generally speaking, you must be represented by a lawyer.

Generally, the court requires payment of a filing fee to start the guardianship process. The fee varies, depending on what you are asking the court to do. Additionally, there is a fee for the sheriff to serve the papers on the loved one, as well as fees for fingerprinting for the background check.  Lawyers will generally require payment of a retainer fee as well.

 

Probate

Probate is the process of transferring a deceased person's assets to someone else. The person in charge of administering the estate (called the personal representative) must figure out what the decedent owned and distribute the assets to the persons who are entitled to receive them.

No. There are many reasons why a probate would not be necessary.  Sometimes, people will put everything they own in a trust.  Other times, they have designated what they own in a way to avoid probate (an example of this would be having an account titled “Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship.”) You should consult an attorney to figure out what the situation requires.

It depends.  The Florida statutes provide for a fee that is presumed to be reasonably (generally 3% of the inventory value of the estate plus any income earned while the estate is being administered).  However, if there are little assets or only real property, the attorney, client and people who would bear the fees can agree to a different fee.

Generally speaking, no.  Unless you have agreed to be personally liable for the bills (an example would be as a co-owner or a co-signer), you are not responsible.  To be sure, consult an attorney to answer this question.

 

Estate Planning

The short answer is now.  If you do not have a comprehensive estate plan, act now so that you can ensure your wishes are heard when you can no longer make them known.

Life events that trigger the need for an estate plan or the update of an existing plan, include the birth of a child, children turning the age of majority so that they can now be a decision maker, aging parents and the death of a spouse or a child.

If you do not know whether you have written instructions for your disability, you have married or divorced, have persons named as decision makers who have since passed away or just are not sure whether your assets are addressed by your existing estate plan, then you should review your documents immediately and contact an estate planning attorney.

If you die without a will, you die "intestate." Intestate means that the Florida Statutes define who receives your property. Executing a will ensures that your property goes to the people you want to have it.

A will takes effect after you die. A will designates, among other things, who you want to receive your property after your die.
A Living Will is a document called an "advance directive." Its purpose is to express your wishes about medical decisions in the event that you cannot make those decisions for yourself.

The living will expresses your wishes about your medical decisions. A health care surrogate is the person you name to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them. Although a living will and a health care surrogate can be drafted separately, it is my practice to combine those documents.

While there is no requirement that you have an advance directive, the best practice is to put your wishes in writing. If you do not have an advance directive, then the Florida Statutes define who can make those decisions for you. The person may or may not know what you want.

Yes, it should be honored in Florida. However, you should consider reviewing your estate planning documents on a regular basis to ensure that the document still accomplishes your wishes.

While there are certainly plenty of websites or programs that will allow you to prepare the documents yourself, Florida has statutes in place regarding these documents. Problems often arise from "DIY" documents that can result in your wishes not being honored. It's better to consult competent legal help.