Florida Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney
The Charles Law Offices1700 66th Street North Suite 301
St. Petersburg, Florida 33710
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Law Firm Overview FREE CONSULTATIONThe Charles Law Offices provides comprehensive estate planning, elder law, and estate administration services in the Tampa Bay area. We welcome couples and individuals of all ages and all stages of the planning process, including caregivers and guardians who are helping mom or dad get their final affairs in order, and out-of-state heirs who need to wrap up a Florida estate in probate. The Charles Law Offices practices estate planning, probate, Medicaid planning, guardianship, and provides other elder law services, and serves Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, the Tampa Bay area, and clients statewide and nationwide.
We believe that education is the consumerís best weapon when grappling with the confusing and overwhelming issues involved in estate planning and probate. We are pleased to speak to both public and private groups about estate planning, probate and trust administration, Medicaid planning, guardianship, estate taxes, and asset protection techniques. Speaking engagements are for educational purposes only, and are always conducted free of charge. Susan M. Charles holds a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in Elder Law and is active in numerous professional organizations. While she can provide sophisticated strategies for preserving and protecting assets, she is adept at explaining things in plain English, without the use of "legalese".
Areas of Law
Areas of Law Description
The Charles Law Offices provides comprehensive planning services and problem-solving representation in the areas of:
- Estate Planning
Estate planning accomplishes several goals. It transfers assets through Wills and Trusts, it communicates your wishes for medical care if you are not able to do so, and it gives someone decision-making authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. An estate plan can protect the financial assets of a family when one person requires nursing home or assisted living care.
A Last Will and Testament avoids confusion and disputes such as Will contests among family members. An increasing number of people have had more than one spouse and children, and your Will can clarify your desires for these as beneficiaries. With a Will, you can choose a trusted person (called an executor or personal representative) to oversee the estate administration. You can designate a guardian for a child or incapacitated adult. You can leave personal items to specific loved ones. You can make gifts to charity.
Trusts, while initially more expensive, avoid the cost and delays of the Florida probate process. There are many types of Trusts to choose from and they are often an excellent choice for achieving specific goals. For example: A Special Needs Trust can provide ongoing financial support for a disabled child or family member; A Charitable Trust can transfer assets to a charity and a Land Trust can hold land in perpetuity, protecting it from being developed; An Education Trust can fund college for your grandchildren; A Living Trust can be changed or canceled.
* Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives
Estate planning is not only about what happens after you die. The Charles Law Offices can draft the documents that make your wishes known if you are unable to manage your own affairs due to an illness, accident, or dementia. Susan M. Charles is an experienced estate planning attorney serving people in the Tampa Bay area. She takes the time to understand your desires and make sure that your estate plan will have detailed provisions allowing family members or trusted friends to act on your behalf.
* Elder Law/Medicaid Planning
The Charles Law Offices is available for both advance planning and crisis intervention relating to Medicaid eligibility for long-term care: We advise couples or individuals of any age on annual gifting, Trusts, and other strategies in anticipation of nursing home care. Because of the government's five-year "look back" on transfers of wealth, the earlier you address this issue, the better; We represent elders or their caregivers, helping spouses or adult children fix Medicaid messes so that a person who is about to enter a nursing home (or already has) can qualify for or regain Medicaid eligibility. Through bad advice from others, many people have retitled assets, sold their homes or made other mistakes that delay or negate Medicaid coverage.
In the absence of a revocable trust or other support mechanisms designating power of attorney or a health care surrogate, you may petition the court to create a guardian over a person's affairs. If the physical, mental, or financial well-being of a loved one is threatened by abuse or neglect, or by his or her own actions or inactions, you may want to consider having the court intervene to appoint a guardian to restore and protect his or her physical and financial security. The Charles Law Offices in Largo, Florida can represent you in all guardianship proceedings, including contested guardianship.
* Marital Agreements
Families are more complicated than they once were. You may have children or spousal support obligations from a previous marriage. Let us ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. A prenuptial agreement is also called an antenuptial agreement, a prenup or a premarital agreement. It sets out what will happen if the marriage should fail. If you are married and are interested in a similar, post-marital agreement, this can set things on a more stable and less uncertain foundation, particularly if there has been a significant change or you are considering divorce.
* Estate Tax Planning
The federal estate tax was decreased during the last administration and was scheduled to return to previous levels in 2011. Congress has been fine-tuning tax rates to reduce the federal deficit, but also to avoid hampering economic recovery or unfairly burdening those we leave behind. The rates may be different from year to year. The tax is only on estates over a certain amount (the "exemption"), $5 million, in 2011. The top rate is 35 percent. In coming years, the exemption will probably decrease to $1 million and the rate increase to 55 percent ó hence, the importance of consulting an experienced attorney to avoid losing wealth your loved ones should receive in inheritance.
Probate is the required legal process of ensuring the validity of Wills and related documents and preparing for the distribution of the estate. It should be minimized to the extent possible, via Trusts and other documents, with the assistance of an Elder Law or estate planning attorney. Even if the decedent had a Will, the estate must go through probate to ensure the Will's validity, among other things. If there is no Will, Florida state law controls what happens to the estate. Smaller estates (under $75,000) qualify for summary administration, in which assets may be distributed promptly, unless there are significant outstanding debts.
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