Probate Attorneys – Rock Solid Law
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Probate & Guardianships

When it comes to the probate process, Rock Solid Law will provide efficient and compassionate guidance.

Probate is the process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent’s debts and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries. A probate is opened where the decedent resided. Our firm regularly handles probate matters in Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Putnam and the surrounding counties. However, Rock Solid Law can generally handle probate matters anywhere within the state.

Probates are managed under the supervision of the court. Generally, assets are first used to pay the costs of the probate proceeding and then to pay any outstanding debts a decedent may have at the time of their death. The balance is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries either according to the terms of their will or if there is no will, according to the laws of intestate succession. Probate is required to legally pass ownership of the decedent’s assets to that person’s beneficiaries free of the claims of any potential creditors.

At Rock Solid Law, we understand this may be a difficult time for you and your family and we are here to guide you through this process as efficiently and compassionately as possible. We work directly with the personal representative and provide guidance to assist with each step of the probate process including:

  • RSL ProbateIdentify, gather, value, and safeguard the decedent’s probate assets.
  • Conduct a diligent search to locate potential credits of the estate and publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper in order to give notice to potential creditors and to shorten the time to file claims in the estate.
  • Serve a “Notice of Administration” to all those who may have an interest in the estate.
  • To work with creditors to pay or settle valid claims, to object to improper claims and defend suits brought on such claims.
  • To coordinate with other professionals including certified public accountants, appraisers, and investment advisors to assist in the administration of the probate estate, valuing of assets and filing of final tax returns.
  • Distribute probate assets to beneficiaries
  • Assist with resolving any disputes that may arise.

While most probates are administered without incident, sometimes disputes arise. Perhaps a disagreement between beneficiaries as to the distribution of the assets or concern as to the validity of a will. If a probate becomes contested, we have attorneys available who can assist.

The biggest nightmare of your life can be attending your own probate during your life.

Guardianship Lawyers – Serving Many Communities Including Duval, St. Johns, Clay, and Putnam Counties.

Ideally, Rock Solid Law advises all competent adults to sign advanced directives such as a Durable Power of Attorney or Designation of Health Care Surrogate which permit the appointment of an agent to make business and/or healthcare decisions if our client is unable to make decisions or take action for himself or herself.

But, what if you lose capacity due to dementia, mental illness or an accident before you sign a Power of Attorney or Designation of Health Care Surrogate? Or what if a family member has a developmental disability and never had the capacity to sign documents in the first place? In these cases, we recommend that you consider a legal guardianship proceeding to appoint a trusted family member or friend to become the legal decision maker. As guardianship lawyers, we have experience helping clients living in Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Putnam, and many other counties across the state with these matters. If you reach out to us, we’ll be more than happy to start going to work for you.

What Are The Types Of Guardianships?

There are several different kinds of guardianships. There is a full guardianship, which is a two-step process in the state of Florida. What happens with a full guardianship is: a petition is filed to determine if someone has the capacity or not. The judge then appoints an examining committee to examine the individual and determine whether or not they have the capacity. They will do a physical exam and a mental exam.

If the person does not have capacity, it can be in all areas or in limited areas. For example, can they determine their residence? Can they decide their healthcare decisions? Can they manage their money? The examining committee will tell the court, in each of these areas the person can or cannot make decisions. If they cannot, the court will remove the person’s rights in those areas and determine them incapacitated.

If they are incapacitated and they’ve never named a power of attorney or a healthcare surrogate to manage their affairs, then the court will appoint a guardian to manage their affairs. In Florida, a guardian has to be over the age of 18, either related to the individual by blood or live in the state of Florida, and never have been convicted of a felony. If all those requirements are met, then the person will be named the guardian, and they will manage the affairs of the person who is incapacitated. So that is a full guardianship.

In Florida, there are is also what is known as a guardian advocacy. This is a special kind of guardianship which the legislature has said you can do if your loved one has one of five developmental disabilities: spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Prater-Willie syndrome, autism, and mental retardation. If your loved one has one of those five developmental disabilities, guardian advocacy may be the proper route to take.

There will still be a court hearing. You will go in and prove to the judge that your loved one has one of those diagnoses, or one of those five developmental disabilities, and that because of the diagnosis, they are impaired and cannot make decisions in certain areas. Those areas could include personal decisions such as residence, social, travel, education, employment, medical. It could also include financial decisions, the right to contract, the right to manage money, to buy property, all of those kind of things.

So you have to offer testimony to the court showing that the individual, because of that developmental disability, cannot manage his affairs in those areas. And if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that they cannot, they will appoint a guardian advocate to manage the affairs of the person with the developmental disability in those areas. Again, to be a guardian advocate, you have to be over the age of 18; either be related to the individual by blood, or live in the state of Florida; and you have to have never been convicted of a felony.If you qualify, you will be appointed guardian advocate to make decisions for that person in those specific areas. Each year, you’ll file a plan with the court, and you’ll also file an accountingif there’s any money involved, so that the court can monitor that you are indeed taking care of this individual.

Does a guardian make either financial or health care decisions or both?
A court may appoint either a guardian of the property (makes financial decisions and assumes control of AIP’s finances), a guardian of the person (makes health care and end of life decisions) or both. They may be the same person or different people.

What is a guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal proceeding held in a court in which a judge determines an individual is in need of assistance with decision making and appoints a guardian.

A Guardian Advocacy is an abbreviated guardianship case specifically designed for adult individuals who have a developmental disability (including only: mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, autism, or spina bifida) and who lack the capacity to do some of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person, property or estate.This type of guardianship is the least restrictive and least costly type of guardianship for persons with developmental disabilities and does not require a determination of incapacity or the appointment of an examining committee. Usually, a parent files a petition for appointment as Guardian Advocate after a disabled child reaches the age of 18 since the parent no longer has the ability to make decisions for the child once the child has reached the age of majority.

The guardian advocacy process does require the filing of court documents and attendance and presentation of evidence at a court hearing. The Guardian Advocate is also required to file all of the usual paperwork under a traditional guardianship, including Annual Plans and Accountings, and is also required to attend the guardian education course. The process does require the filing of court documents and attendance and presentation of evidence at a court hearing. The Guardian Advocate is also required to file all of the usual paperwork under a traditional guardianship, including Annual Plans and Accountings, and is also required to attend the guardian education course.