Estate Administrations ("Probate") What is probate? Generally speaking, it's the process by which a deceased person's assets are gathered by a personal representative, and then distributed in accordance with either the decedent's will (if a valid will exists and is recognized by the Court) or the state's intestacy laws (which apply where there is no will). In Florida, we refer to the probate process as "Estate Administration," and we call the "executor" a "Personal Representative." Estate Administration in Florida is a process that is governed by the Courts, and for which the statutes require attorney representation. The Court will determine if a decedent's will is valid and will govern distributions; the Court will determine if the person applying to be Personal Representative of the Estate is qualified, and if so, will be appointed; and the Court will oversee the distribution of assets and payment of any creditors' claims until the Estate has been fully distributed. In Florida, there is a summary (shorter) process for distribution of assets in small, simple estates. We can advise whether your loved one's Estate will require administration at all, and, if so, which type of administration will be proper. We represent clients through the process of Estate Administrations and assist in contested administrations (will contests, disputes over ownership interests in a decedent's assets, disputes over appointment of a Personal Representative, and removal and replacement of a Personal Representative). We have represented clients who discovered their siblings had wrongfully distributed or even appropriated to themselves the decedent's assets. The passing of a loved one can be a very challenging time in many ways. The process of Estate Administration does not need to be an aggravating factor.
Estate Planning Who needs an Estate Plan? You do! Planning is not for the wealthy alone, but for anyone who wants to designate where their assets go upon their death. In some cases, designation of a guardian for minor children is important. In other cases, it's important to put in place now the governing documents to avoid a costly guardianship of your own person and property. Not every plan is right for every situation. We'll meet with you to discuss your particular situation and needs: your relationships with family members and friends, your assets, your liabilities, your concerns, and your goals. From there, we prepare comprehensive estate plans built around revocable living trusts, wills with testamentary trusts, or simple wills. We believe that no Estate Plan in Florida is complete without a living will expressing your decisions and wishes for end-of-life care to relieve your loved ones of the pain and stress of making those decisions. If you already have an estate plan or will in place, we'll meet with you to review it and ensure it meets not only the legal requirements for enforcement but also your desires for final distributions of your assets.
Business Law and Litigation Consult us to determine the proper entity for your new business, or for transferring your entity to Florida. We work with you and prepare operating agreements, management agreements, leases, contracts, subcontractor agreements, employee handbooks, employment agreements, retainer letters, and policy manuals to assist you in getting started or getting on track. Should any issues or disputes arise in the conduct of your business, we can handle the resolution, whether negotiation of settlement or litigation in the Florida Courts at all levels.
Real Estate We represent commercial and residential landlords and tenants in negotiating, drafting, and enforcing lease agreements. We help homeowners filing claims with their homeowners' insurance company, in disputes with their homeowners' associations, and resolving issues with their mortgage lenders. Easements, restrictive covenants, contractor issues, and HOA issues are all within our experience--and we represent not only contractors (and subcontractors), engineers, HOA's, and architects, but also business owners and homeowners.
Contracts and Agreements There is nothing worse than being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Some clients come to us only after their self-drafted or internet-downloaded documents have failed them and they are facing litigation. Consult us before you make the deal, buy the property, loan the money, form the company, enter a partnership, grant the rights, or waive your own rights. We can draft an agreement that will protect your rights while maintaining the integrity of your endeavor. We regularly draft and negotiate the language in our contractor clients' subcontractor agreements, and in our business clients' contracts for services, commercial leases, and management agreements. If you are setting up or winding down your business, we can help with that, too. From employment agreements including non-compete provisions to asset purchase agreements, getting good counsel is essential. While we can never guaranty any document will make you immune to suit, having the proper protections in place and the requisite clarity of terms can ensure you don't wind up having to litigate or arbitrate your dispute in a foreign state at incredible expense without any recourse.
Civil Litigation If you're running a business, so the adage goes, you've either been sued or you will be sued. Of course, our firm prefers to be on the preventative side of agreements and contracts by negotiating and drafting them to protect your interests. Sometimes, however, your customer or client isn't satisfied, or wants to change the deal after the fact, or denies having made the agreement in the first place. Sometimes your property is damaged, or your contract is breached, or the note you hold or invoice you sent isn't paid. Sometimes your subcontractor fails to pay his subs after you've paid him. Maybe your commercial landlord has sold the building and your lease is not being honored. We represent both Plaintiffs and Defendants. We do not represent insurance companies, nor do we practice in the areas of criminal law/defense, medical malpractice, or wrongful death.
Other Practice Areas In addition to the areas of law mentioned above, which comprise the vast majority of our daily work, there are certain types of cases which do not arise every day but which we take on if the circumstances permit. We have taken on appeals (written briefs and conducted oral argument) in the District Court of Appeal in Florida; attorney malpractice representing the injured client; private adoption; and guardianships of minor children. Additionally, we have served as counsel to non-profit professional associations and charitable organizations in Florida: we reviewed and provided legal analysis of proposed legislation affecting the membership, advised as to procedural issues and board resolutions with respect to governing documents, reviewed contracts for meeting spaces and leases for retail space, and consulted on litigation issues and public information act requests.
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