Common Questions About Florida Law
It is natural to have many questions and worries when faced with a legal issue or litigation. The experienced lawyers at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., ask many common legal questions and provide useful answers to help get you in making the best decisions for you and your family.
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Texting and Driving in Florida
Electronic devices are the biggest cause of distractions for drivers nationwide. In 2016, Florida alone saw roughly 50,000 accidents and 233 fatalities as a result of distracted driving.
In the time it takes to glance at a text message, a driver can travel nearly 300 feet—enough to strike a pedestrian, hit the back of a stopped line of cars, or even veer off the road entirely.
Florida Drivers May Be Ticketed for Texting and Cell Phone Use
In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law strengthening protections against electronic distractions and making texting and driving a primary offense. As of July 1, law enforcement officers may pull over drivers who are texting without any other reason for the traffic stop.
Florida detracted driving laws place specific restrictions on:
- Cell phones. While it's legal for drivers to make and answer calls, all drivers in school zones and construction areas must use hands-free systems in order to talk on the phone. Troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol troopers may begin issuing warnings for cell phone use beginning October 1, 2019 and issue citations for the practice after December 31.
- Texting. It's illegal for drivers in Florida to text while driving. This includes manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a virtual keyboard, hitting a button on a wireless device to send messages, or reading any data off a device while a vehicle is in motion. Drivers face a $30 fine for a first offense, plus court costs; with second and subsequent offenses within five years, there's a $60 fine and an addition of three points to their licenses. Drivers caught texting in a school zone may have two additional points added to their licenses, while motorists whose texting resulted in a crash will have six points added to their licenses.
- Truckers and bus drivers. Operators of trucks and buses are held to a higher standard than other drivers. Both truck and bus drivers are only allowed to use wireless communication devices if they're hands-free, and can be pulled over and charged if they use a handheld electronic device while driving in Florida law without committing another violation. For the first violation, commercial drivers can receive a fine up to $500 and their companies can be charged separate costs up to $2,750. If a driver commits three texting violations or more, he or she can be liable for a $2,750 fine and license suspension for 120 days, while the employer can be fined up to $11,000.
If you've been injured in a distracted driving accident, you should have the incident investigated as soon as possible. A thorough examination can reveal if a driver was using his or her cell phone at the time of the accident, which can significantly affect the amount of damages a victim is awarded.
Our attorneys can help you build a strong injury case and advise you of all of your legal options. Simply fill out the form on this page today to make an appointment in our offices, or call the number on this page to speak to an attorney.
Will insurance pay for OEM parts after a rear-end car accident?
If you're involved in a crash that wasn't your fault, you have the option of repairing your vehicle with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. However, even if your car is fixed using OEM parts at an authorized dealership, it won't be worth the same as it was immediately before the crash.
The damage to your vehicle might be undetectable and it may run perfectly, but its resale value will always be lower simply because it was involved in an accident. The only way to make up this difference is by filing a diminished value claim against the driver who struck you.
Our attorneys only represent clients with diminished value claims when handling a car accident case that caused personal injuries.
Types of Diminished Value Claims in Florida
Florida's negligence laws require an at-fault party to pay for any damages needed to make the victim whole again. Even if your car is back to normal due to repairs, you'll still suffer a loss when you sell or trade your vehicle in the future. In an effort to make victims truly whole again, Florida allows victims to recover the difference between a car's pre-crash value and its value after repairs, known as diminished value.
Compensation for the diminished value of a vehicle may include:
- Immediate diminished value. This is the difference between the vehicle’s pre-accident value and its post-accident value after the insurance company files the claim. It may also include losses from the insurer’s involvement in the claim, such as if your insurer will only pay for repairs at certain auto shops.
- Repair-related diminished value. Repair-related diminished value includes losses that result from the quality of repairs. Noticeable differences in paint colors, installation of generic parts, or improper installation of panels or bodywork that creates a rattling noise or impacts aerodynamics may all qualify as repair losses.
- Inherent diminished value. The most widely-recognized form of diminished value is the amount lost merely because the car was involved in an accident. When you attempt to sell the vehicle or trade it in for a new car, potential buyers will have access to the vehicle's crash history, significantly diminishing the amount you may be offered. Inherent diminished value pays for owning a “crashed” vehicle, even if the vehicle was repaired to its original condition.
Attorney Paul Cavonis works one-on-one with every injury client, giving you the clarity and attention you need after a crash. Your case will never be passed off to paralegals or other team members, and we always return calls promptly to answer your questions. If you were injured in a crash, simply fill out the brief contact form on this page to set up a consultation with our car accident law firm.
What is a fiduciary? Who should act as my fiduciary?
When you are planning for your death and incapacity, one of the first questions is who would be your fiduciary? Your fiduciary is one of the key decision-makers in any estate plan, and the potential roles include your successor trustee, personal representative (i.e. your executor), your attorney-in-fact (your power of attorney), and your designation of health care surrogate.
What is a Fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a trusted person or institution that can act for you upon your death or incapacity. A fiduciary is held to the highest standard of trust in the legal world. For estate planning purposes, your fiduciary roles can be separated out in different ways:
- Successor Trustee: While not everyone needs a living trust, your successor successor trustee can manage your financial affairs during your lifetime and also upon your death.
- Personal Representative: Also known as your "executor," your Personal Representative is appointed to handle your probate estate upon your death as part of the Florida probate process.
- Attorney-in-Fact: The person named in your durable power of attorney, this person handles your financial and legal affairs. If you become incapacitated and you have not created a durable power of attorney in advance, you may need a guardianship for someone to manage your legal and financial decisions.
- Health Care Surrogate: You should name a decision-maker if you are unable to handle your medical decisions. In Florida, you nominate this person in a designation of health care surrogate. If you become incapacitated without naming a health care surrogate, your family can become your health care proxy.
Often, the same person can serve in all of these fiduciary roles - your successor trustee, personal representative, attorney-in-fact and your health care surrogate.
Who should act as my Fiduciary?
First, you must trust the person you name in any role. There is no better way to create problems in your estate plan than to name an untrustworthy person. After that, the person you name should be able to act if needed. Someone who lives out of state, for instance, may not be a great choice if you have a trusted local person. Finally, you must trust this person’s ability to run your affairs. The person you name should have the financial and emotional ability to handle difficult situations in being your advocate. We have a list of ways to choose your health care surrogate, for instance.
What if I do not have any children or family?
While most people look to family fiduciaries, this is not possible for everyone for a variety of reasons. If you do not have a trusted family member who is able and willing to assist you, some estate planning attorneys serve as fiduciaries. If your estate planning attorney will not do this for you, he or she may know professional guardians and banks who could help you in the event of your death or incapacity. As an elder law attorney, our law firm serves in this role for some clients.
What’s the difference between a survival action and a wrongful death claim?
If your loved one was fatally injured in an accident, you and other surviving family members may be able to pursue a claim for damages under Florida law.
Depending on the circumstances, you could be eligible to file either a wrongful death claim or a survival action to recover compensation for an injured party’s death. Let's take a look at the differences between these two types of claims.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim involves a person killed as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Some examples include being struck by a drunk driver, falling from a height due to a lack of railings, or slipping on someone else’s property.
State laws give all accident victims the legal right to file injury claims in order to recover payment. Since a fatally-injured victim can't file a claim on their own behalf, the right to bring an injury claim falls to the next of kin. In most cases, only a surviving spouse, children, or parents can file a wrongful death claim.
Potential damages in a wrongful death case may include:
- Compensation for funeral expenses
- Loss of financial contribution
- Lost parental support
- Loss of household assistance
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional trauma
The amount awarded depends on the claimant’s relationship to the deceased person, the deceased person’s assets and income, and the value of the deceased person’s services to the family.
What Is a Survival Action?
A survival action is an extension of an existing legal claim filed by an injured party. For example, a victim may file an injury claim after being struck by a piece of falling construction equipment, but is killed in a car accident while the case is still pending. If this happens, the victim’s surviving family members may pursue a survival action to recover the compensation the individual would be owed had he or she survived.
Survival actions are different from wrongful death claims because they seek compensation for the pain and suffering the injured party endured before his or her death. The death doesn't have to be related to the injury for which damages are sought in order for a survival action to be successful.
Damages in survival claims may include compensation for loss of income, medical bills, and pain and suffering between the accident and the time of death. They vary depending on the duration of the suffering after the accident, the severity of pain, and the variety of symptoms the victim suffered prior to death.
The attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can examine the details of your case and determine whether you may be eligible to file a wrongful death or survival action claim. Reach out to us using the information on this page to set up a consultation with a Florida wrongful death attorney.
Where do slip and falls commonly occur?
From your kitchen to city streets or even airplanes, any place a person can walk poses a risk of a slip, trip, or fall.
While slip and fall accidents can happen practically anywhere, there are a few locations where these injuries are more likely to take place.
Places Where Slip and Fall Injuries Often Occur
It's important to recognize where slips, trips, and falls are most likely to happen for several reasons.
- It can help you stay vigilant in these areas and prevent an injury from occurring.
- It's easier to identify which party may be liable if you choose to file a slip and fall lawsuit.
- There may be specific laws or policies that apply specifically to an accident caused by a particular peril, such as when children trespass onto a dangerous property.
Slip and fall accidents are most likely to happen in or on:
- Supermarkets and stores. Many falls in grocery stores result from spilled liquids or standing water (such as from leaking refrigeration units) not cleaned up promptly. Retail stores may be responsible for falls from tripping hazards, such as clutter in customer aisles.
- Elevators or escalators. Elevators may have broken tiles or torn carpeting, while escalators may be unsafe or slippery due to lack of maintenance.
- Steps and stairs. Uneven surfaces, lack of handrails, and poor lighting are common causes of falls in stairwells, front and back stoops, and exposed staircases.
- Parks and playgrounds. Children are often injured in poorly-designed play areas, while adults may slip on gravel, footpaths, or tiles surrounding public swimming pools.
- Sidewalks and parking lots. Municipalities have a duty to maintain city sidewalks, and can be accountable when uneven, broken, or slippery walkways cause injuries. Business and city governments are both responsible for repairing potholes or broken pavement in parking lots—and for placing cones around the hazard to warn visitors until repairs are made.
- Bars and restaurants. Businesses that serve food or alcohol have a responsibility to clean any spills as quickly as possible to prevent slips, and to ensure all areas have adequate lighting to prevent injury.
- Bathrooms. Bathrooms are common sites of slipping injuries due to the likelihood of water spilling onto tiles or slippery floors. The staff members of hotels, coffee shops, gyms, hospitals, and all other locations where guests may use the facilities should ensure they're adequately cleaned and lit.
Most of the time, these accidents are the result of someone else’s negligence. If you were hurt on someone else's property, contact us today so we can help determine who is responsible. When you work with us, we pay all initial costs necessary to pursue your claim—you're not responsible for any of our fees unless we secure a financial recovery. Contact DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis today to set up a consultation with a Florida premises liability attorney.
Is there a difference between a motorcycle accident lawyer and a car accident lawyer?
Yes! Personal injury lawyers often handle a variety of accident cases, even if they focus their practices on car crash victims. However, there's a big difference between a motorcycle accident lawyer and a general injury lawyer.
Although a car crash may have some similarities to a motorcycle accident, the details of the case and the extent of injuries can be vastly different.
Without the right representation, bike crash victims may be underpaid for their suffering.
Choosing the Right Injury Lawyer for a Florida Motorcycle Crash Case
Under our state law, any attorney licensed to practice here can represent an accident victim. Most law firms don't take every type of case, limiting their knowledge and expertise to the cases and injuries they handle regularly. If you wouldn't hire a tax attorney for your claim, why would you hire an injury attorney who doesn't have motorcycle crash experience?
Our motorcycle accident attorneys can:
- Provide legal advice from a fellow biker. Attorney Paul Cavonis is a motorcycle rider and is familiar with state motorcycle laws as well as the kinds of injuries these accidents can cause. His passion for riding makes him a dedicated advocate for you if you were injured or know someone who was killed in a motorcycle accident.
- Fight against biker bias. Unfortunately, insurers often try to paint motorcycle riders as reckless or irresponsible, implying they are somehow to blame for an accident. Our firm gathers evidence to prove to a jury that you're a safe rider, such as showing that you were properly licensed to ride a motorcycle in Florida, and wore a helmet and proper riding gear. We'll also examine and perhaps present your maintenance and repair records to demonstrate you took care of your machine.
- Accurately estimate your losses. Motorcycle accidents frequently result in much more severe injuries than car wrecks, resulting in long-term lost income, steep hospital bills, ongoing medical care, loss of your motorcycle, and even permanent disability. The effects of a crash can cause a rider to suffer depression, chronic pain, an inability to continue riding, and overall lost quality of life. Our attorneys calculate the total amount of your pain and suffering losses, and go all the way to trial if necessary to secure a financial recovery that will last the rest of your life.
If you're struggling after a Florida motorcycle accident, the attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis will lay out your options and advise you on how to receive proper compensation. Use the brief contact form on this page to set up a consultation with our injury team.
Who can be held liable if an animal causes a car accident?
Florida's diverse ecosystem gives the state a wide variety of wildlife, from deer and flamingos to bears and alligators.
Unfortunately, these animals often cross roads, wander over bridges, and even scamper through parking lots to look for food. To make matters worse, auto insurers might not cover the damage when your car collides with an animal.
Compensation for Animal Strikes to Vehicles in Florida
An animal darting into the road can cause serious injuries and extensive damage to your vehicle. Although Florida requires minimum insurance coverages for all drivers, these policies usually don't apply when an animal causes a crash.
Potential payment for these crashes depends on whether the accident involved:
- Domestic animals. Accidents caused by pets, farm animals, and other domesticated creatures fall on the animal's owner. You could seek payment under the owner's homeowner's insurance, or another liability policy.
- Wild animals. Wild animals don't have owners, so payment for a wildlife crash falls under your comprehensive auto policy. This optional coverage pays for damage caused by something other than a collision with another car, such as vandalism, slippery roads, and animal strikes.
- Near-miss crashes. If you manage to avoid hitting the animal, but run off the road or strike a fixed object, you may seek reimbursement for repair costs under your collision coverage. Collision insurance is also optional in Florida, and covers repairs to your vehicle after a single-vehicle crash (such as hitting a tree or veering into a ditch).
- Swerve collisions. Sometimes swerving to avoid an animal can cause you to sideswipe cars in the next lane—or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle. Your state-required personal injury protection coverage can be used to pay medical bills and lost wages for these accidents, while collision coverage may also apply if you're considered to be partially at fault.
If you're struggling after a Florida car accident, the attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can advise you on possible options and secure the compensation you need to move on with your life. Simply fill out the brief contact form on this page to set up a consultation with our injury team.
Can I afford a motorcycle accident lawyer?
Our legal team knows how a crash can suddenly increase both physical and financial costs. We have spent many years as motorcycle injury attorneys and experienced riders, and want to relieve the pressure placed on victims. That is why DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis always represents motorcycle accident clients on a contingent fee basis.
How Contingent Fees Benefit Motorcycle Accident Victims
If you have been forced out of work or into hospital care after a crash, you probably don't have the resources to hire an hourly attorney. Fortunately, the state of Florida allows us to charge a contingency fee, only collecting payment for legal services if and when we recover for you. As our client, you must agree on the percentage of the amount in writing before the case begins.
Contingent fees make it easier for you to pay for:
- Upfront expenses. Throughout an injury case, there are many out-of-pocket expenses, such as copying and filing costs, records requests, hiring investigators, taking depositions from eyewitnesses and expert witnesses, storage fees, and creating trial exhibits. We cover all upfront costs of the case, and you reimburse us once the case settles.
- Legal representation. Without the burden of ongoing legal costs, you can focus on your recovery. If we don't win the case, you won't be responsible for any legal fees.
- Injury costs. Paying for legal services with a percentage of the settlement allows you to continue care while your case is pending. It also allows you to pay for legal services only after you have the funds to do so.
- Court battles and appeals. The percentage we charge depends on the amount of damages, whether we are able to reach a settlement in negotiation or go to court, whether the case is tried more than once, and whether the case is appealed to a higher court.
Our injury attorneys also take away the burden of paying for legal advice after an accident, providing free consultations to all injury victims.
If you're struggling after a Florida motorcycle accident, the attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can advise you on your options and secure the compensation you need to move on with your life. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation with our injury team.
What do I need to prove to recover damages in an injury case?
If you suffered a serious injury, you may need to file a lawsuit to get the compensation you need to pay for medical bills and financial losses. While Florida law allows you to recover these costs from at-fault parties, you will have the burden of proving that the person who caused the injury—the defendant—was legally negligent.
Proving Negligence Is Key to Recovering Damages for an Injury
Injury cases such as slip-and-falls, car accidents, and medical malpractice are all based on the legal doctrine of negligence. Simply put, negligence is failure to ensure the proper degree of care necessary to prevent harm to another person. While there are many kinds of evidence that can be used to prove negligence, there are also specific tenets of negligence law that must be proved in order to recover damages.
Before you can be awarded damages for injuries, your attorney must prove:
- You were owed a duty of care. This means the defendant had a legal obligation to provide for your safety, also known as a duty of care. There are some cases when the defendant’s duty of care may be minimal, such as if you were trespassing at the time your slip and fall occurred.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. If you were owed a duty of care, there must be evidence the defendant was in violation of that duty. This may include different types of negligence, such as failing to fix a hazardous condition, acting carelessly or recklessly, or neglecting to warn you and others of the potential danger.
- The defendant’s breach caused damages. The attorney has to establish a clear link between the breached duty of care and your injuries. If the defendant's legal team can prove your medical condition resulted from something else, the defendant may not have to pay for your injuries—even if the judge agrees this individual or entity was otherwise negligent.
- The degree of your own negligence. In Florida, your own negligence for an injury doesn't prevent you from seeking damages. However, if you are partially to blame for an accident, the amount of your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault. Legal counsel for the defense will try to make your percentage of fault as high as possible to reduce the amount of money owed to you, but our attorneys gather evidence to refute these claims.
If you suffered an injury, our personal injury attorney can outline your options and work to secure the compensation you need to recover. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.
What does premises liability mean?
Premises liability is the legal term for the responsibility for an injury on someone else’s property. Under premises liability laws, you have a right to seek payment from the owner if you suffer an injury in the owner’s house, business, or land.
Florida Premises Liability Cases
The most common accidents in premises liability cases are falls, such as trip and fall and slip and fall incidents. However, victims can suffer a wide range of injuries on someone else’s property, including injuries from falling debris, slick snow or ice, broken gates, faulty wiring, or even assault.
Property owners have a duty to make their homes and commercial buildings reasonably safe for visitors. If an injury was caused by a landowner or property manager’s negligence, there's a good chance the injury qualifies for a premises liability claim.
There are many different important factors involved in these types of cases, including:
- Who can bring a premises liability claim? While pretty much anyone who suffers a severe injury can bring a premises liability claim, property owners have a different duty of care to different types of visitors. The highest standard of care is given to guests invited onto a property for business reasons, such as shoppers in a grocery store or patrons of a restaurant. It also applies to people invited to the property in order to do work, such as repairmen. The second-highest level of care is given to social guests or people invited onto a property for social reasons for a specific period of time, such as inviting friends and family members to a party. In many cases, people who show up on the property unexpectedly like a friend or neighbor can also be considered a social guest. The lowest tier of care is given to trespassers, or people who were not invited and have no reason to be on the property.
- Who can be liable? Many different people who have control or rights over a property can be held liable for a premises liability injury. Owners of homes and businesses; property managers who oversee several shopping malls, condominiums, or hotels; and landlords can be liable if they fail to remedy a dangerous condition on the property within a reasonable period of time. If an injury occurred in a shop, liability may fall on the shop owner, the owner of the leased property to house the shop or both.
- What do I need to prove? Property owners and other liable parties generally cannot be held responsible for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition on their property that they didn't know about. In order to collect payment in a premises liability case, you will first need to prove that the owner/liable person knew about—or should have known about—a hazardous condition on the property. Next, you must prove the owner/liable person failed to fix the condition and/or warn others of the danger. Finally, there must be proof that you were directly injured by the hazardous condition.
- Are there different laws for trespassers or children? Trespassers may not have permission to enter a property, but that doesn't mean property owners don't have any liability for their safety. Owners have a duty to warn anyone on their properties about potentially dangerous or lethal conditions and can be liable for any intentional injuries to a trespasser. Owners have a special duty of care toward children, since children may not recognize conditions as harmful—such as trampolines, swimming pools, or discarded appliances. A property owner is responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect nearby children by installing preventive measures around it (such as a fence with a locking gate) or by removing dangerous conditions from the property.
- What can I recover? Injuries in a premises liability case can be extensive. Damages may include compensation for medical treatment, physical rehabilitation, lost wages and income, disability, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, and other remuneration.
If you were injured on another person’s property, our personal injury attorney can advise you on options and get the compensation you need to recover. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.
Do I need insurance to ride a motorcycle in Florida?
Florida motorcycle laws can be slightly confusing, especially when it comes to insurance.
In our state, riders aren't required to carry insurance to register or even to ride a motorcycle. However, they can be held financially responsible if charged with negligence in a motorcycle crash.
High Costs of No Motorcycle Insurance
Much like the state's motorcycle helmet law, Florida motorcycle insurance laws require you to carry only minimum coverage to pay for injuries sustained in a crash. Instead of any specific coverage or policy, Florida motorcycle riders must carry at least $10,000 in medical benefits to protect you against liability in crashes. This coverage can come from a dedicated policy or from your regular health insurance.
Unfortunately, a $10,000 policy is likely to be far less than what you may need after a collision, especially considering the severe injuries bikers suffer in a crash. Florida’s accident and insurance laws also provide a lower standard of protection to bikers than to drivers, including:
- No PIP coverage. In our state, operators of motor vehicles with four or more wheels are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) to guarantee payment of their medical bills in an accident. However, PIP payment isn't available to motorcycle riders injured in a crash—even if you carry PIP on another vehicle.
- Lack of no-fault protection. Florida's “no-fault” laws for motor vehicle accidents only apply to vehicles with four or more wheels, excluding motorcycles and their owners. If you have more than $10,000 in motorcycle crash injury costs, you must pursue compensation for outstanding medical bills and lost income from the other driver.
- Penalties for causing an accident. Even though motorcycle insurance isn't required, Sunshine State riders can still face penalties if involved in crashes without insurance. If you're found to be at fault for an accident and don't have liability insurance, you may have your license suspended, lose riding privileges, and face civil fines.
Although it's not required, you should definitely get motorcycle insurance if you're riding a bike in Florida. Some insurers offer a multi-policy bundle—and often a discount—for insuring both a car and motorcycle and may offer additional uninsured motorist coverage to protect a rider from a wreck with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, our personal injury attorney can counsel you on available options and get the compensation you need to recover. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.
What Makes an Asset Go Through Probate Upon Death?
Most people know that when they die, they want their assets to avoid the probate process. Most people do not even know what probate is, but they know they want to avoid it. But what is probate and, even more important, when do assets go through probate in Florida?
First, probate is the court process to properly settle your estate upon your death. The probate process was created to make sure the decedent's taxes are paid, legally enforceable bills are paid, and assets go to the right people (i.e., their heirs). Their are four types of probate in Florida, each applying in very specific situations. The four types are:
- Formal Administration: A typical "probate" process where the court appoints the personal representative (i.e., "executor") to settle the estate.
- Summary Administration: A shorter and more simple form of probate when assets are less than $75,000 and all of the decedent's bills are paid (among other matters).
- Disposition without Administration: Not really a probate, per se, but a simple way for a family member or other person to get paid for last funeral costs.
- Ancillary Administration: When the decedent was not a resident of Florida but owned real property here.
We have more on the types of Florida probates here.
Let's get back to the question posted - what makes an asset go through probate in the first place? Probate assets are assets that were either:
- In the decedent's own, individual name upon their death; or
- Did not have a beneficiary designation upon death.
Assets in the decedent's own, individual name would be just about anything - bank accounts, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, real property (i.e., land), and more. When someone dies with these assets, no matter what the value, the family/heirs will need to look to one of the processes above in order to take control of the asset.
If someone had a life insurance policy, IRA, 401k, etc., that did not have a beneficiary designation, that asset would also be subject to the probate process.
Example of Probate Assets:
Mom dies with a bank account and her homestead property, both in her individual, individual name. The family/heirs will need to see a probate attorney to gain control of the bank account and to sell the home.
Where are Probate Assets Distributed?
Probate assets are distributed according to the decedent's last will and testament, if they have one, and if not, then according to the laws of intestacy, which roughly means going to your family in the order set forth in the Florida statutes.
What Should I do to Avoid Probate?
There are a number of ways to avoid probate with your own estate plan. If you want to learn more about how to avoid probate, please download a copy of my book, The Top 20 Rules to Protect Your Florida Estate.
If you want to learn more about probate:
- Do I need to hire an attorney to probate a Florida estate?
- Does probate have a small estate affidavit?
- Download our free book, Navigating the Florida Probate Process!
What Are Some Pet Laws in Pinellas County?
Whether you are taking a trip to the veterinarian or are just out for a ride, pet owners often transport their animals in and out of cars. In an effort to protect both pet owners and their four-legged friends, Pinellas County created laws to ensure the safety of animals. Here are a few:
What does the law say about the transportation of my pet?
Most people don’t know this, but your pet must be safely enclosed in the vehicle or protected by a container, cage, cross tether, or another device, which would prevent the animal from falling, being thrown, or jumping out of the motor vehicle in Pinellas County.
Is it illegal to leave my pet in the car?
When the temperature outside reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car can climb to 120 degrees in just 30 minutes, so leaving pets unattended in cars on warm days, even for a short time, can cause irreversible organ damage or even death, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
In Pinellas County, an animal cannot be confined or remain unattended in a vehicle in conditions that would endanger the well-being of the animal due to lack of ventilation or water, heat, or any other condition that pain and suffering, disability, or death to the animal is expected to occur.
If I can’t leave my pet in the car, can I restrain it outside?
No, in Pinellas County, it is unlawful for a person to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog or cat to any stationary object, unless it is within the visual range of the owner.
Is there a leash law in Pinellas County?
Yes, the law states, “No dog or cat shall run at large within the county. Any person who possesses, harbors, keeps, or has control or custody of any dog or cat which is running at large shall be in violation, regardless of the knowledge, intent or culpability of the owner.”
For more information on pet laws, visit the Pinellas County Animal Services website.
Do I really need a realtor for a residential real estate transaction?
Maybe. Buying a home is a stressful and overwhelming process, often from the first online search for real estate listings. Realtors can alleviate a lot of the stress and confusion homebuyers face, but they'll also take a fee for their services. That said, realtors may be wise investments for people who don't want to do the legwork, research, and negotiations necessary to get the best possible deals.
Using a Realtor to Buy Florida Real Estate
A realtor is a person who performs real estate-related duties for someone buying or selling a home. A realtor working for the seller is often called a seller’s agent, while the realtor representing the buyer is known as a buyer’s agent.
Generally, both buyers’ and sellers’ agents work on commission—usually a percentage of the home’s final purchase price. The fee is generally settled at closing, so you won’t pay for the agent's services until he or she is finished working for you. In some cases, a realtor may want clients to sign an exclusivity contract, which is a promise that you won’t work with another broker for a specified period of time.
In addition to fees, there are a few other considerations when hiring real estate agents. For example, they are unable to offer legal advice during a real estate transaction. Also, since their commissions are based on the sale price of the home, so they likely have a vested interest in the sales price of the property you are buying.
Buyer’s Agent Benefits for a Florida Home Purchase
Realtors are not the only people who can act as buyers’ and sellers’ agents. A real estate attorney can also perform certain duties of a real estate agent, with the added bonus of advising you on legal matters that arise during the transaction.
Whether you're using a realtor or real estate attorney to buy property, your buyer's agent can be invaluable throughout the process by:
- Finding potential properties. Buyers can easily miss opportunities in a seller’s market, where homes may be sold within days of public listing. Agents often receive information about listings and potential listings ahead of the general public, and can contact you immediately if a home matching your specifications is becoming available.
- Experience. Buyers' agents have experience in the market trends, neighborhood statistics, zoning codes, school districts, and local businesses in residential areas. This specialized knowledge is much more beneficial at the start of a home search, as learning about potential downsides later in the purchase process can cause delays or cancel the transaction altogether.
- Offering mortgage advice. Realtors often recommend one or two lenders for buyers who need to finance home purchases, and agents are forbidden from profiting off of these referrals to lenders.
- Negotiating with sellers. Agents can perform market analyses that tell you if a seller’s asking price is too high or too low, and will consider any potential repairs or costly problems on the property to calculate a competitive offer. They're often familiar with the costs of upgrades, title problems, and seller motivations that can be leveraged during negotiations.
- Closing. Real estate closings involve a deluge of paperwork, and agents are familiar with drawing up the documents and contracts necessary to complete closing. If buyers have questions during closing, they can clarify a document’s meaning with the agent before signing, attaining peace of mind.
Our real estate attorneys can work alongside or instead of a realtor to give buyers the best chance of finding an affordable home while protecting their interests. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers your questions.
When should I accept a buyer’s offer on my house?
Whether you receive one offer on your home or several, it can be difficult to tell if the terms and suggested purchase prices are right for you.
In addition, sellers have a limited period of time to consider offers before they expire, making it even more stressful to choose the right buyer.
Fortunately, there are a few factors that can help sellers determine when a buyer’s offer meets their needs.
Three Things to Consider Before Accepting an Offer
While sellers may be tempted to accept the highest offer on their homes, there's much more to consider than the sale price.
An offer that's far higher than the rest may cause a seller to refuse other potential buyers—only to have the offer fall through. Ultimately, sellers have to evaluate which offer presents the best deal. This may not always be the one with the highest price.
Before deciding whether to accept or pass on an offer, sellers should carefully examine:
- Financing. With a cash offer, there's no need for a buyer to involve a lender, eliminating many of the approvals and deadlines imposed when there's a mortgage provider. Cash offers typically mean shorter wait times for closing and far less paperwork in the transaction.
- Timing. Timing affects every aspect of a real estate transaction, from listing to closing. A seller with a specific timeframe for moving—such as relocating to a new city for a job—may be more likely to accept a first offer; while someone who is selling the house for other reasons may wait for a higher bid. Even the amount of time the house is on the market can affect its value, with the highest offers likely in the first few months the house is listed.
- Details. If a buyer’s offer is slightly low but meets time constraints, sellers may make a counteroffer to the asking price, or negotiate for the buyer to pay for closing costs, inspections, or repairs.
In most cases, the best offer is the one that provides the most benefits to the seller’s unique situation. Our real estate attorneys have over 30 years of experience representing buyers and sellers in Florida, and can examine the details of your offers to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.
Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers your questions.