How to Find a Good Elder Law Attorney in Florida

How to Find a Good Elder Law Attorney in Florida

When we think about living in Florida, we focus on daily living and enjoying the beauty and pleasant weather. However, as someone approaches their golden years or begins to experience health issues, daily living shifts. This is especially true if you’re loved one needs long-term care. That’s why it is an important time to plan for your estate.

As you consider planning for your future and ensuring your wishes are followed, below is a guide on how to find a good elder law attorney in Florida.

How to Find a Good Elder Law Attorney

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is a helpful resource for information about the practice of elder law. Prior to hiring an attorney, it is important to determine if your legal issues require the expertise of an elder law attorney. People who may be able to help you figure this out are a financial advisor or estate planning attorney. It is important to ensure you are utilizing the kind of attorney you need.

Should you determine you do need the expertise of an elder law attorney, the National Elder Law Foundation National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys database lists local certified elder law attorneys. Additionally, you may consider the recommendations of trusted friends and family or referrals from local agencies who regularly work with seniors.

12 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney

Hiring an attorney is an important choice, one that forms a relationship over a variety of issues including some of your most important values and assets. It will also be a significant financial commitment. Due to the importance and intensity of this relationship, this list of key questions may help you decide which attorney may be the best choice for you, your family, and your needs:

  1. Is there a fee for the initial consultation?
  2. What is your ongoing fee structure if we enter into this contractual relationship?
  3. What do you consider to be your areas of expertise and specialization? (Ex. Long-term care planning, nursing home care, tax planning, estate plans, health insurance, estate litigation, etc.)
  4. Do you now, or have you ever, had any warnings, reprimands, disbarments, or sanctions while you have practiced law?
  5. How long have you been practicing law? What about elder law specifically?
  6. What percentage of your work is in the specific area of elder law?
  7. Will you remain with me and my family or is my case overseen by a team from the law firm? What happens if you leave the practice?
  8. If it becomes necessary, do you do home visits?
  9. What would you estimate as the total cost for people with cases similar to mine?
  10. What type of communication do you prefer and how quickly should I expect a response?
  11. Are you a member of NAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys)?
  12. Are you a member of AFELA (Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys)?

While you can’t cover every eventuality in your research of the best prospective attorneys for you and your family, you can consider these elements as a way to make a confident choice. If you would like to discuss your elder law needs with our experienced elder care attorneys in Florida, contact us today!

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Estate planning is essential to personal financial planning in Florida, albeit focused on the time after your passing. As difficult as it may be to think about, avoiding estate planning results in costly responsibilities for your loved ones. No matter how familiar you may be with this process, we offer many reasons why estate planning is important below.

What is an Estate and Estate Plan?

Before we begin, we want to define an estate and an estate plan. An estate includes everything you own at the time of your death. This includes any financial accounts, liquid or investment accounts, real estate, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, savings accounts, stocks, and personal belongings.

An estate plan is a legal document that says what you would like done with all those assets after you pass away including beneficiary designations. Estate planning includes but is not limited to, powers of attorney (which can be used while one has capacity or in the case of incapacitation) and guardianship for minor children or special needs dependents. A comprehensive estate plan that includes all applicable estate planning documents is also a stronger choice than a will.

Why are Estate Plans Important?

  1. Protects Beneficiaries: The estate planning process is not just for those with a lot of wealth. Whatever is yours is what you want to protect for your beneficiaries. A major goal of estate planning is to legally identify your heirs so that the court doesn’t. It also helps them avoid a potentially lengthy and costly probate process.
  2. Protects Young Children: While none of us expect to pass away while our children are young, it happens sometimes. Establishing an estate plan while you still have minor children and/or special needs dependents means your children will be cared for by the guardians you feel are best for them and with the financial resources you leave behind.
  3. An Estate Plan Reduces Tax Bill for Heirs: Another important component of estate planning is protecting your heirs from undue tax burden for your estate. Estate planning attorneys are experts in tax planning to help you reduce federal estate taxes and state inheritance tax and estate taxes.
  4. Estate Plan Eliminates Family Messes: When you pass away, you want your loved ones to be able to support one another, rather than get caught up in a legal battle for the distribution of assets. Stop potential conflicts and court costs before they begin with an effective estate plan that works best for the unique makeup of your family and financial situation.

Regardless of estate size, an estate plan is an important legal step for anyone who wants to ensure their wishes are followed after their passing or incapacitation. Not only does this help protect your assets for your beneficiaries, but it also allows you peace of mind as well.

If you would like to discuss the aspects of estate planning, establish an estate planning strategy, or update an existing estate plan as your age and circumstances change, contact our expert estate planning attorneys today!

How to Obtain A Power of Attorney in Florida

When it comes to protecting your assets and wishes as you age, establishing a power of attorney is an important step. This is something you can, and should, establish early on as you consider your retirement preferences. If you are interested in knowing more about a power of attorney or how to obtain a power of attorney in Florida, we can help.

What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone else the ability to make decisions for you. It is important to make this kind of decision when you are healthy as a POA must be established without coercion by a mentally competent person who is of sound mind.

The Function and Types of POAs

Establishing a POA is an important part of ensuring your wishes are followed. You can decide what types of power you want your agent to have even while you are still well and/or during possible subsequent incapacity. In this way, POAs are a powerful part of your estate plan because you can allow specific needs to be handled by others at the stages you want.

As you move forward to establish a POA, you have choices in the “type” of POA that is best.

  • Durable POA: This type of POA has broad authority over financial matters, allowing your agent to make finance decisions, real estate transactions, investments, pay bills, etc.
  • Limited POA: This is the most specific and limited POA option, where you establish only certain roles and/or periods of time when your agent is allowed to act on your behalf.
  • Medical POA: (also known as a Healthcare Surrogate) This type allows your agent to make medical and healthcare decisions on your behalf.

When creating a POA, there is the option to have two people sharing decision-making authority over important matters like finances, medical care, signing documents on one’s behalf, etc.

How to Obtain a Power of Attorney in Florida

Now that you have information on the different types of POA in Florida, it is time to take the steps to obtain one:

  1. Consider the POA options above and determine which fits your needs best.
  2. Decide whether your POA should be durable, long-lasting, or limited to a certain condition/time frame.
  3. Discuss with your agent the powers you have given him/her and the responsibilities he/she has.
  4. Contact our office to assist in preparation of the POA. Note, Florida statutes indicate a POA must be witnessed and notarized.
  5. Make both digital and hard copies of your POA and keep them in a safe location.

Determining the right POA for your situation and following the proper legal process is important. For peace of mind while you are pursuing the POA process, please contact our office for a consultation.

What is the Average Cost of Assisted Living in Florida?

Many people choose to live their golden years in Florida because of the warmer climate. And while the hope is to enjoy the retirement years living independently, there comes a point when many Floridians may need help considering assisted living facilities for changing physical or health needs. To intentionally plan for senior care costs, it is helpful to ask, what is the average cost of living in Florida?

Why is Assisted Living a Valuable Option?

After spending years working to accumulate wealth for your retirement years, considering the cost of possible assisted living needs can be intimidating. Compared to a mortgage, the sticker shock of this type of daily living can feel overwhelming. However, it is important to view the cost of an assisted living community as a supportive environment that may improve lifestyle, provide social activities, reduce worry, and eliminate some physical requirements related to independent living. This type of living also combines some other regular monthly costs such as utilities, food, and housekeeping into one monthly expense, so the shock of the overall expense is a bit less drastic when looking at all aspects.

Average Cost of Assisted Living in Florida

On average, assisted living costs in Florida are around $4,000 for monthly or yearly costs of $50,000, depending on the location. Of course, this cost may vary some based on location in Florida (i.e., Miami, Tampa, and Punta Gorda tend to be less expensive, Panama City and Tallahassee more, and Port St. Lucie is moderate). There may also be increased costs associated with options available in terms of selected amenities and level of care. As an example, memory care is often 20%-30% more expensive. Care options may include meal preparation, attendant nursing care, emergency response systems, health monitoring, medication management, personal care assistance, health aides, etc. To consider your situation more specifically, access a cost of care survey here.

How Will I Be Able to Pay for Assisted Living in Florida?

As referred to above, assisted living costs can be alarming. However, financial assistance programs are in place to help seniors pay for assisted living facilities or long-term care services. For those seniors who are low-income individuals and/or disabled, Medicaid offers a wide range of services, and Medicaid Waivers are available to financially and medically eligible persons. Some people are also able to utilize previously purchased long-term care insurance or retirement accounts. Additionally, if you are a Veteran or spouse of a Veteran, the VA offers a program to assist with the costs of care. 

Deciding upon a path for immediate or future assisted living costs can feel overwhelming, but there are people who can help. For further discussion regarding the above options and additional holistic guidance from an experienced elder care law attorney in Florida, please contact our office.

Announcing Expansion Of Practice Interview

Announcing Expansion Of Practice Interview

The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen is pleased to announce the expansion of its practice to serve Indian River County, Florida!

Ms. Van Fossen said, “In response to client demand, we are eager to expand into Indian River County. We look forward to serving our neighbors with the same quality and compassion as we have in Brevard County since 2004.” This expanded practice area allows the experienced team of attorneys at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen to represent more individuals along Florida’s eastern central coast.

Families in Indian River County needing expert care for their aging veterans will now have access to expertise in veterans affairs. Ms. Van Fossen said, “As an Elder Law firm, we offer a unique practice that assists in attaining public benefits. With three VA accredited attorneys on staff, we are able to serve our Veterans with knowledge and confidence in obtaining benefits.” Families in Indian River County needing expert care for their aging veterans will now have access to specialized care in this unique area of the law and a full range of elder law services.

The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen understands the deeply personal aspects of elder care law. The team provides practices in elder law, estate planning, guardian advocacy, case management, probate and trust administration, trust funding, Medicaid planning, and veterans benefits. 

Located at 211 E New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901, you can contact The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen at (321) 345-5945. To learn more about their full range of services, visit www.amybvanfossen.com. Learn more about monthly Seminars and Events or register for a VA Benefits Seminar, Medicaid Planning Seminar, Estate Planning Workshop, and Trust Follow-Up Seminar on the website as well.