Pam Sutton has trained Tyndall AFB JAG officers in Florida estate law A will must be written and executed correctly to be valid and accomplish what the signer intended. Having a durable power of attorney can help ensure your wishes are followed
when you can no longer voice them. We provide probate representation throughout the state of Florida There are different probate options allowed by Florida law.
We can help you figure out which one you should use.
Panama City, Florida Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyers
Planning for the future
As we age, we face special legal problems. But, it is not just the elderly who need to have plans for their future. In these uncertain times, the whole family needs a strategy for what will happen in the event of death or disability.
Estate planning prepares for the distribution of your property after your death. It also includes making lifetime plans for managing your finances or making decisions if you become unable to do so.
Our approach to elder law and estate planning – a personalized assessment of your needs
Panama City attorney Pam Sutton is a Harvard graduate with the highest peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell. She provides legal services in this area of law, including:
Power of Attorney
Health Care Surrogate
Special Needs Trusts
Ancillary Administration of Estates
Don’t be intimidated by the length of this list. Most people do not need all of these services. We will help you figure out what you need and what you don’t need.
We schedule an initial consultation to analyze your specific circumstances. This consultation is very valuable. You will get lots of information and we will ask you questions you may not have thought about.
Often, people think they need elaborate estate planning lawyer arrangements, especially involving trusts. This is not always true. Some clients find that they don’t even need a will. We are able to offer clients options that may be less complicated and less costly but still will satisfy their needs.
We also work with lawyers from other states and with financial advisors and tax professionals where appropriate to ensure that clients get all the professional advice and information they need to make good decisions.
Wills and Trusts
Both wills and living trusts are documents that provide instructions concerning what will happen to a person’s estate after he or she dies. The functions of wills and trusts often overlap and people may have both.
A will is the most common document for accomplishing estate planning. In a will, normally you identify your beneficiaries and what they receive. A will may include special provisions, such as naming a guardian for your minor child, stating whether you wish to be cremated, authorizing a separate list to give away items of personal property, and ratifying distribution of assets from joint accounts.
A will must be written and executed correctly in order to be valid and to accomplish what the signer intended. We have seen many cases in which, after death, a will is rejected because it was not properly drafted or executed or is enforced very differently from what the deceased person intended because the drafter didn’t understand the legal consequences of what was written down.
A trust is a means of changing the ownership of your assets. A living trust may provide that you transfer ownership of assets during your lifetime but that you still may retain the benefit of owning and managing those assets. A living trust may also direct what happens to trust property when you die.
A will can contain trust provisions. For example, you can name someone to supervise assets left to minor children or grandchildren until they are old enough to take control of the money or property themselves, or you can make provisions for the care of disabled family members. This is called a testamentary trust. Trusts tend to be more expensive to prepare than simple wills but may provide more flexibility.
There are many factors to be considered when you choose a will or a living trust or both. To discuss your options, call Pam Sutton at 850.785.7272.
Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designation, Living Will
These are basic estate-planning documents that are often part of an estate plan and that everyone should consider obtaining.
Long-term care and power of attorney
While some decisions may need to be made by a guardian when a senior is incapable, there are arrangements he or she can make before that time comes. By choosing a trusted individual to have power of attorney, you can help to assure that your wishes are followed when you can no longer voice them.
A power of attorney is a document authorizing someone else to act for you. In estate planning, a durable power of attorney, if correctly written and executed, will allow you to choose someone to manage your financial affairs during your lifetime and may continue to do so even if you become mentally incapacitated, without the need to obtain a guardianship. More than one person may be designated under a power of attorney to act for you.
Determining the appropriate person to entrust with planning your long-term care as well as dealing with financial, legal, or health care matters can seem challenging. Numerous bumps in the road may arise and should be discussed with a legal advisor since your decisions may need to be included in legal documents.
To discuss creating your power of attorney, call Pam Sutton. She has experience in these matters that may help your unique case. 850.785.7272
Health Care Surrogate/Living Will
With a designation of health care surrogate, you can choose who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.
A living will contains instructions about your wishes for treatment if you are found to be in a persistent vegetative state, or are diagnosed with an end-stage or terminal condition illness.
One of the important goals of this process is to give you choices and control, to the extent possible, over what happens to you and to your assets. You need to be aware of the risks as well as the rewards of your estate planning decisions. Call for an appointment at 850.785.7272
Probate is a court proceeding to administer a person’s estate after death. A probate court will settle the deceased’s debts and formally transfer property ownership to the beneficiaries or heirs. These proceedings can be complicated and take a considerable amount of time. In Florida, there are less complicated (and sometimes less expensive) options available, depending on the situation. You need skilled legal guidance from the beginning of the process.
Sometimes, a deceased non-resident owned property in Florida. While that person’s estate would be probated in another state, an ancillary administration would need to be filed in Florida to transfer title to that property to the non-resident’s beneficiaries. We often work with lawyers in other states and represent clients in ancillary estate proceedings.
Much of our practice is in Bay County. We regularly represent clients in nearby counties of the Florida panhandle, including Washington, Holmes, Jackson, Gulf, Walton, and Calhoun Counties. We also represent clients in probate cases throughout the state of Florida.
Incompetency proceedings and Guardianships
When people become too impaired to be able to care for themselves or to manage their affairs, sometimes it becomes necessary for someone – usually a family member or close friend – to step in to take over. A petition for a declaration of incompetency would then be filed with the court.
As part of this proceeding, Florida law requires that an independent examining committee be appointed and also that a court hearing be held. Once a determination of incompetency is made, the court normally will appoint a guardian.
The guardianship procedure is expensive and requires annual reporting to the court. Many guardianships could have been avoided by better lawyer estate planning. However, sometimes pursuing this legal option is unavoidable.
The main goal of bringing a guardianship proceeding is to protect a defenseless person from losing money or suffering from neglect of physical needs. If you find that a loved one is in need of such protection, let us help you with this emotionally challenging process. Call 850.785.7272
Another type of guardianship involves managing the assets of minor children. In a number of situations, such as if a minor receives an insurance settlement or inherits money, Florida law may require that a guardianship be created to manage the funds until the child grows up. Because of our experience handling personal injury and wrongful death claims, we frequently have been asked to set up such guardianships.
Health Care and Long-term Care
Older people are faced with some difficult decisions as they approach the later years of their lives. As we age, we all deserve respect and protection. Society does not necessarily provide adequate assistance. With so many of us living longer, legal planning for those years becomes even more important.
These Elder Law issues include:
- Long-term care
- Medical coverage and health care benefits
- Eligibility for government benefits
Medicare is available to help pay medical bills but does not cover all health care needs and does not provide for long-term care. The time to consider these needs is before they become urgent. To discuss legal options and protections available to the elderly, call Panama City elder law attorney Pam Sutton at 850.785.7272.
Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Abuse
As our population ages and the economy remains uncertain, mistreatment of the elderly has become an increasing problem. Sometimes the mistreatment results from well-meaning caregivers who are not able to provide proper care, sometimes because of deliberate understaffing, poor training, or inadequate supervision in facilities that are cutting corners to make a bigger profit.
Elder abuse can be very hard to identify or prove. Symptoms of abuse may be mistaken for those of illness. Victims may not be able to communicate mistreatment or may be afraid to do so. An elder abuse lawyer may be able to help discover the truth and get justice for your loved one.
At STONE & SUTTON, our overlapping experience in the areas of personal injury and elder law enhance our ability to effectively investigate and pursue cases of abuse for our clients. If you are concerned about the care your loved one is receiving, please call us to discuss the problem. 850.785.7272
Need justice? Call Stone & Sutton at 850.785.7272 to speak with a Florida elder law and estate-planning attorney.
This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.