Main Office
Downtown Jacksonville
1301 Riverplace Blvd
Suite 800
Jacksonville, FL 32207

Phone: 904-562-1369
Fax: 844-570-2242
www.jasmithlawfirm.com

Jacksonville, Florida Probate & Estate Attorney

 

Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm: Committed to Helping You.

 

The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm in Jacksonville, Florida provides personalized legal services to meet the needs and goals of individuals and families in the areas of divorce, estate planning, family law, and probate. Our mission is to fully understand the circumstances, needs and goals of our clients and to develop customized strategies to accomplish them. We pride ourselves on excellent communication with our clients and flexibility in meeting their schedules, goals and needs.

We serve clients throughout the state of Florida, as well as out of state clients who have family or assets in Florida. We are conveniently located in Jacksonville, Florida, where we can meet with you in person. Or, if you prefer, we have other convenient options to connect with you such as Skype, video conferencing, email and our client portal.

The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm can help you when facing pressing legal issues or concerns. We go to work on your case right away, keeping you informed every step of the way. Our focus is always on the client and how we can help meet your needs.

A Different Kind of Law Firm in Jacksonville, FL

 

The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm is a different kind of law firm and here’s why:

• We offer flexible meeting options that suit you, such as in person, video conferencing, phone, including evening appointments.
• We offer flexible payment options, we accept credit cards and payment arrangements can be made in certain cases.
• We keep you informed as to the status of your case by email, phone and our client portal.
• We are responsive and promptly respond to your questions and inquires usually within one business day.
• We stay connected to you, even after we have handled your legal issues, we stay in touch.


Our Mission

To help clients manage and resolve legal issues that impact their lives and that of their family and business, by creating trusting relationships with clients to advise and help clients meet their needs now and in the future.

The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm is available to assist you with:

Estate Planning

Planning in advance for the transfer of assets at the time of death. A good estate plan should reflect the specific goals and needs of the client. Most importantly a good estate plan should give you peace of mind. Everyone can benefit from estate planning, if you own any property (real or personal) then having an estate plan is a good idea.

When you plan your estate, you allow your loved ones and the courts to know what you want to happen to your possessions after you are gone. It also helps you better understand what assets you have and how much or how many of them you have. Beginning the process of estate planning will require that you start compiling lists of everything that you own, any accounts and property and who is listed as beneficiaries to those possessions. This process can take time, so it's best to begin sooner rather than later.

A written will, or "last will and testament" in legal speak, is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out. There are limits to what you can do with what you have after you're gone, and a good lawyer will know these and help you answer any questions about wills you have. Wills usually list all property a person owns and who gets that property or what should happen to it. For example, the property may be split equally among a group of people by percentage (each person gets 25 percent), or it may be dispersed specifically (Bob gets the house, and Sue gets the money in the savings account).

Wills also have executors who are charged with ensuring the wishes of the deceased are carried out properly. An important part of a will is outlining what authority and duties the executor has so that he or she knows exactly what to do. A properly constructed will and estate plan help make the transition of property smooth and reduce the risk of court intervention.

Incapacity Planning

Planning for the management and administration of your estate should you become incapacitated. An incapacity plan allows you to specify what should happen to you, to your property, and assets, if you become sick or hurt and cannot manage your own affairs.

  • Power of Attorney - giving another person the power to conduct business in your name, such as signing legal documents and handling money and accounts.
  • Advance Directives (Living Will and Healthcare) - a document that tells healthcare providers and family members what to do or what medical procedures you want if you become seriously ill.
  • Surrogate Designation - designating another person to make medical decisions for you in case you become incapacitated.
  • Pre-need Guardian - designating a person to serve as guardian before the need arises. One has the option to list multiple possible guardians in order of preference and to forbid certain guardians.

Family Law

Family law is an area of law that deals with all family and domestic relationships, including, child support, child custody, and many other concerns. Family law encompasses all relationships and situations that affect the home, and particularly children.

Because this area of law concerns rather sensitive subjects, an experienced attorney may be critical when it comes to pursuing matters in court. During a divorce, adoption or other proceedings that involve children, courts are especially careful to take the child's best interests into account. Success in family law often hinges on one's ability to demonstrate to the courts that a child will live in a safe and stable environment.

In addition to questions of custody, family law concerns questions of protection against hostile environments or persons. Domestic violence and child abuse are tragedies that courts must unfortunately address. Pressing charges or defending against such charges will tax anyone, and knowing how to navigate this landscape will almost certainly require the special knowledge and experience of an attorney.

Reproductive rights and domestic partnerships generally are also governed by family law. Issues in these areas are no less complicated than in others, but the exact nature of the cases is likely to be different merely because the legal bonds being dissolved or enforced are different. For example, determining biological parenthood, dividing property in civil unions and emancipating minors are all found in family law.

Business Formation & Business Succession

Planning for the start of a new business can help you understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of the various business types. When you have decided on a specific type of entity, we can help you file the necessary documents and put legal agreements in place to officially establish and govern your new business. As well as assist business owners in planning for orderly business succession.

Forming a business is not an overly difficult process, but it does have many steps. The right paperwork has to be filed with the right government agencies, and the state has requirements for organizational meetings and ongoing annual reporting. Business succession is also incredibly important because Florida law allows for many potential options. If a plan is not in place, the courts will decide what happens next. You can plan for a business to go to an heir, be transferred to a partner, or be sold.

Special Needs Trusts

A special needs trust is set up for a person with special needs to supplement any benefits the person with special needs may receive from government programs. A properly drafted special needs trust will allow the beneficiary to receive government benefits while still receiving funds from the trust.

If as little as $10,000 is left to a loved one with special needs, he or she will be disqualified from Social Security and Medicaid benefits. Putting funds or other assets in a trust allows a trustee to spend money on goods for the loved one without putting other benefits in jeopardy. Such trusts are often used to pay for personal care attendants, other medical expenses, and home furnishings. Trusts usually expire upon the death of the beneficiary or when the funds dry up.

Asset Protection

Asset protection planning is proactive legal action that protects your assets from future creditors, lawsuits or judgments. To maximize this benefit, planning should be done before the need arises. There are various legal techniques available that provide a range of protective features, from simple financial privacy to the ultimate, judgment-proof asset protection.

Without asset protection planning, you could be vulnerable to potential creditors. Florida has fairly friendly laws for businesses with multiple owners, but the same is not true of single-member LLC's, for instance. What's more, if you are a partner in a business, you should protect yourself from others' debts. And it is important to ensure your personal assets are protected as well.

Probate, Estate and Trust Administration

Probate is a court-supervised process of identifying the assets of a decedent (deceased), paying the debts of a decedent, and distributing the assets of a decedent to his or her beneficiaries. Distributing the assets of a decedent in a probate proceeding is necessary to pass ownership from the decedent to the beneficiaries.

When a person dies leaving a valid trust, a Trust Administration becomes necessary to carry out the wishes of the decedent’s as written in his or her trust. Our law firm will work with the Trustee and beneficiaries to have the trust administered in a timely and professional manner.

When a person dies and leaves an estate, and steps have not been taken to avoid probate, the will must be determined as valid by the courts. If no will is left, the court will have to decide the best steps to take based on who has claims upon the estate. This process takes time, most often somewhere around six months to a year. A period of delay is required to give creditors or unknown heirs a chance to press a claim against an estate.

During probate the executor of the estate will have to take an inventory of assets, file important documents, keep track of who gets what and eventually file closing paperwork showing that the will has been executed properly so that the estate can be closed. Aside from knowing how to accomplish these tasks, a good lawyer will help clients keep track of deadlines and assist in this process in a professional manner.

There are also ways for estates to avoid having to go through probate, such as creating trusts, and experienced attorneys can help clients decide if these options are best. Everything from the size of the estate to the number of claimants should be considered. Planning ahead now will help reduce the confusion, stress, and frustration those executing the estate will otherwise experience. It also provides a much greater likelihood that your wishes will, in fact, be carried out when you are gone.

Divorce

Divorce is the process a married couple must go through when they want to permanently end their marriage. Florida is a no-fault divorce state that is when no blame or fault for the breakup is placed on either spouse.

In a no-fault divorce state, all that needs to be alleged is that the relationship is irretrievably broken. However, issues concerning blame do come up in later developments. For instance, courts will hear testimony and admit evidence that demonstrates fault on the part of a spouse when determining how property will be divided, the amount (if any) of alimony payments and custody arrangements.

There are simplified methods of divorce in Florida, but they require broad agreement on the part of the couple getting divorced. If spouses agree that the marriage is irrevocably harmed and cannot continue and also iron out details about assets and how to divide them, then the entire process can move much faster. Assuming that there are complicating factors, such as disagreements about what is fair or children under the age of 18, a trial is usually required.

This process can be long and unpleasant. An experienced attorney should try to reduce stress and chaos, especially if children are involved, answer any divorce related questions, and ensure that all deadlines are met. Furthermore, a good lawyer will be a vocal advocate for an equitable distribution in which the client is given a fair ruling.

"My experience with Judy-Ann Smith as my lawyer for an Estate Planning process exceeded my expectations. I find Judy-Ann to be very knowledgeable, highly thorough, completely competent and up-to-date on the latest laws and the impact of those laws on my decisions. She offered options, and helped me understand the benefits and alternatives to the options. I highly recommend Judy-Ann to anyone who is in need of assistance with Family Law, Estate Planning and/or Probate."

★ ★ ★ ★ ★


5 / 5 stars