LRS Panel Descriptions
Elder law became designated as a separate “certified” area of the law in 1995 by the Florida Bar due to the specialization elder law attorneys have regarding many transitional issues affecting the elders and disabled persons. As elders, and sometimes not so “elders,” suffer from mental capacity issues, such as developmental disability, dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, an experience attorney can assist that person or couple with estate planning, long term care planning, care facility placements, establishing “special needs trusts,” guardianships (and avoidance of guardianships with advance directives), probate (and avoidance of probate), and applying for government benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, and Veteran’s benefits.
An elder law attorney is experienced in protecting, and when applicable, asset repositioning to assist with the application for government benefits and to avoid the necessity of court intervention in guardianships and probates.
Estate Planning: The preparation of the durable power of attorney, designated health care surrogate, living will, preneed guardian directive, beneficiary designations, trusts and last wills and testaments.
Medicaid Planning: The preparation of the Medicaid application and the planning for eligibility through asset repositioning and agreements that properly reduce the estate.
Special Needs Trusts: The preparation of special trusts that allow the individual to continue with government benefits and at the same time, making funds available to improve the quality of life while the participant is on Medicaid.
Guardianship: The planning and preparation of petitions that initiate court interaction that allow a court to oversee and protect the incapacitated person (“the Ward”). The court appoints a guardian for a person deemed incapacitated and then oversees the management of person and the person’s property.
Probate: Along with trust and estate lawyers, the elder law attorney often has involvement in or the transitioning of the estate in probate.
Wills: Is one of the most important documents in your estate plan. A will designates who will be the personal representative of your probate estate and it directs where assets titled in your name are to pass at death. A properly drafted will ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Without a will, your assets will be distributed pursuant to Florida’s intestacy laws.
Trusts: There are many different types of trusts but all trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. Trusts can be used as a vehicle for transferring your assets to intended beneficiaries during your life and/or at your death. Perhaps the most common trust is a revocable trust. These trusts are often used to hold title to assets so that those assets are not subject to probate administration at your death and are not subject to guardianship proceedings should you be determined incompetent. These trusts offer some privacy over wills which must be filed with the clerk of the court at your death.
Estate & Gift Taxes: These taxes are imposed on the privilege of transferring property either during life in the form of a gift or at death in the form of a bequest. These taxes are calculated based on the value of the asset transferred either during life or at death. The Federal government imposes these taxes and many states also impose their own estate and gift taxes. Under current law, Florida does not impose an estate or gift tax. Although under current law there was a brief hiatus from Federal estate tax during 2010, the Federal estate tax resumes in 2011. There are certain thresholds that must be exceeded before the Federal estate or gift tax is imposed. Under current law, beginning in 2011, bequests in excess of $1 million are subject to Federal estate tax (although this threshold is likely to change should Congress amend the law). Under current law, cumulative gifts to any one person during a year in excess of $13,000 are subject to Federal gift tax. No Federal tax gift tax is due, however, if a taxpayer’s combined lifetime taxable gifts are less than $1 million.
Estate Tax Planning: This is a process designed to structure how a person’s assets are owned and how those assets pass either by gift or by bequest to minimize and, in some cases, to eliminate a person’s Federal estate or gift tax liability.
Guardianship: This is a court proceeding designed to appoint a person, called a “guardian” to manage the affairs of a person, called a “ward,” who is not competent to manage their own affairs. The ward can be a person who is either declared incompetent or is a minor. There are two types of guardianships: “guardianship of the person” and “guardianship of the property.” A guardianship of the person is for the purpose of managing the daily life of a person who is not competent to manage their own affairs and includes decisions regarding healthcare, food, shelter, clothing, and personal hygiene of the ward. A guardianship of the property is for the purpose of managing the assets of a person who is not competent to manage their assets. The guardian of the property is responsible for decisions regarding the real and personal property, intangible property, business property, benefits, and income of the ward.
Contested Divorce: A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot agree on one or more of the issues in their divorce case. Most contested areas include spousal support, division of property and debts, and issues relating to minor children. An attorney should be familiar with Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes which sets forth the parties' various rights and what the Court should consider when making a determination on issues such as alimony, equitable distribution, timesharing with minor children, child support etc.
Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have agreed on how to resolve all of the issues arising out of their marriage. Typically an Agreement or Consent Final Judgment is prepared which outlines the agreement between the parties. There is only one final hearing where brief testimony is taken from one party to inform the Judge of the parties' agreement and establish the other legal requirements necessary to get a divorce in the state of Florida.
Child Support: Child support is based on the parties combined net income which is defined under Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes. A mathematical formula to calculate child support is set forth in Chapter 61. The area where most people disagree regarding child support is the other party's income. Often the argument of imputation of income comes into play in cases involving child support.
Child Custody: The Florida Legislature has moved away from using the term "custody" and now refers to "Timesharing" and "Parenting Plans". Cases regarding child custody typically involve two components. The first is the amount of time the child or children spend with the respective parents. This is the physical aspect of custody. The parent who is awarded the "majority" of time with the minor child or children is referred to as the "Majority Timesharing Parent" and it essentially has the same effect as the old terminology "primary residential parent". The other aspect of child custody involves "parental responsibility". Typically the Court orders "shared parental responsibility in most cases. Parental responsibility refers to each parents responsibility to keep the other parent informed regarding the minor child and to involve the other parent in major decisions effecting the minor child such as medical treatment, school selection etc. Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes sets out different factors that the Court must consider in determining who should be the majority timesharing parent and a timesharing plan.
Paternity: Paternity cases involve two people who conceive a child outside the bonds of marriage and who are not married at the time the minor child is born. Paternity cases typically involve limited issues relating to medical expenses associated with the birth of the minor child and future medical expenses, expenses associated with the pregnancy and birth of the child, child support, timesharing and shared parental responsibility. Paternity cases are governed by Chapter 742 of the Florida Statutes.
Adoption: There are different types of adoptions under Florida law. The first and simplest type of adoption is a step-parent adoption. Step-Parent adoptions occur when a biological parent's rights to the child are terminated by consent or after a contested hearing. In those cases the step-parent of that child steps into the shoes of the biological parent whose rights have been terminated. There are also "relative adoptions" which most often occur between grandparents or aunts and uncles of the minor child who is the subject of the adoption. A standard adoption is where an unrelated person or persons petitions the Court to become the parent or parents of a minor child. In all cases of adoption, the person or persons adopting the minor child are treated as if the minor child was their biological child and the child has all of the rights of a child naturally born to the person adopting. Adoptions are governed under Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes.
Mediation: Mediation is an informal process where a third party mediator, usually a family law attorney, acts a facilitator to try to help the parties and their attorneys resolve all or some of the issues in their family law case. Most cases are successfully resolved at mediation and never have to go before a judge. The Courts, in almost every instance, order parties involved in contested family law cases to attend
Many individuals are unfortunately involved in accidents and incidents that cause them injury. These accidents can take many forms, including slip-and-falls, automobile accidents, work injuries, product liability, professional liability or malpractice actions, neglect, and wrongful death. Many people become confused by the various legal, medical, and emotional issues that arise once they are hurt. Obtaining the right legal representation can help provide guidance regarding your insurance coverage, the litigation process, and even help identify medical providers. In many instances, you can find an attorney without paying any money up front. Jacksonville lawyers practice at every level, including County, Circuit, state, federal, and appellate courts throughout the state of Florida.
Car Accidents: This is very likely the most frequently occurring cause of personal injury. Accidents involving motor vehicles can also include pedestrian accidents, one-car accidents, or incidents involving a “phantom” driver. Many people are confused about the types of insurance coverages that are available to them, and can be intimidated by the insurance company maze. Some lawyers can also help you find the right medical provider or doctor to treat your injuries.
Construction Accidents: From workers’ compensation issues to third party liability, many legal issues arise out of construction accidents. This can also include improper construction defects, poor design or architectural issues, and also on-the-job injuries.
Medical Malpractice: Some injuries arise out of medical treatment. Cases for malpractice against doctors, hospitals, nurses, nursing staff, chiropractors, and other medical specialties arise when there are allegations that the care rendered did not rise to the community’s standard of care.
Nursing Home Abuse: Elderly loved ones are often entrusted to the care of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, also known as ALFs. Some injury types include bed sores, poor hygiene, falls, or general neglect. In some instances, there are also reports of suspected abuse of nursing home residents.
Dangerous Products / Products Liability: Some products are ultimately determined by state or federal regulators to be unsafe. Either the product itself is defective, meaning that it does not work correctly according to manufacturer’s guidelines, or the product can be used in an unforeseen way that can cause injury or death.
Wrongful Death: Injuries resulting in death is also actionable. There are statutory rules in Florida regarding who may recover in a Wrongful Death Suit. These individuals, or “survivors”, may recover under certain circumstances if death has been caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Probate Process: Although there are many aspects to the probate process, its primary function is to link title from a decedent to his or her intended beneficiaries. The probate process is a court proceeding designed to appoint a person (called a “personal representative”) to gather all of the decedent’s assets; notify creditors, pay any valid, timely claim; and then distribute the remaining assets to the decedent’s intended beneficiaries. Along this process there can be disputes over, among other things, the validity or amount of a claim, the validity of a decedent’s estate planning documents (such as a will or trust), or disputes over the administration of the probate estate by the personal representative. The probate court proceeding is designed to address the probate process and cope with these disputes.
Types of Probate: There are three types of probate: formal administration, summary administration, and ancillary administration. A summary administration is typically used for small estates with probate assets of less than $75,000.00 or if the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years. Summary administrations are more streamlined and do not have significant time lines and steps to take as do formal administrations. Formal administration is necessary for larger estates. These administrations are designed to address significant or unusual assets and creditor claims. Formal Administration can take longer to complete than summary administrations but may be necessary due to the value and/or nature of the decedent’s assets. Ancillary administrations are for decedents who were domiciled in another state but have assets located in Florida. An attorney should be consulted to determine which procedure is appropriate.
Will or Trust Contests: This is a court proceeding where one or more interested persons challenge the validity of a will or a trust by asserting that such document was not properly executed, the decedent did not have mental capacity to make the will or trust, or that the decedent was susceptible and subjected to the undue influence of others.