The Orlando Law Group

Litigation

Our attorneys have extensive experience in a wide range of civil litigation, including actions involving personal injury, insurance, professional liability, real estate, construction, and more. While we believe in settling when it is appropriate for our clients, we also believe that there are some cases that should not be settled. Our lawyers can handle all aspects of litigation.

Our attorneys have past experience practicing insurance defense. They defended hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and surgery centers in medical malpractice claims. They also defended insurance companies regarding slip and falls, product liability and car accidents. Because of this experience, we know how insurance companies think. Additionally, we have the experience to effectively and aggressively litigate your case.

It is important to remember that there are statutes of limitations that apply to personal injury cases. This means that there is a time limit in which you can pursue a lawsuit. For this reason, it is recommended that you contact an attorney without delay to protect your right to file a lawsuit.

Service Offerings:

  • Appellate
  • Business Disputes
  • Landlord Tenant Litigation
  • Mortgage Foreclosures
  • Construction Litigation
  • E-Discovery & Information Management
  • Employment Litigation
  • Insurance Litigation
  • Products Liability
  • Premises Liability
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • State & Local Litigation
  • Trusts, Estates, Guardianship & Other Fiduciary Litigation

Meet Your OLG Attorneys

Jennifer A. Englert

Jennifer A. Englert
Attorney & Managing Partner
(407) 512-4394
jenglert@theorlandolawgroup.com

Kimberly E. Hosley

Jeffrey W. Smith

Sophia Dean

Wendy Hernandez O’Donnell

Wendy Hernandez O’Donnell
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
wodonnell@theorlandolawgroup.com

Nicole Rofé

Jarrod Etheridge


Jarrod Etheridge
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
jetheridge@theorlandolawgroup.com

Marsha Summersill


Marsha Summersill
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
msummersill@theorlandolawgroup.com

Erika De Jesus


Erika De Jesus
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
edejesus@theorlandolawgroup.com

M. Florence King


M. Florence King
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
fking@theorlandolawgroup.com

Dan Sanders


Dan Sanders
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
dan.sanders@sanderslegalsolutionspllc.com

An F-1 visa is a student visa for academic studies. The F-1 visa allows you to come to the United States as a full-time academic or language student to earn a degree or certificate.

You may work part-time on campus or if it is economically necessary, you may work off campus with permission. You may stay in the Unites States to receive training through work experience for up to 12 months or if you have a “STEM” degree 17 months.

To qualify for an F-1 visa you first must be accepted to an approved school. The school must be approved by the U.S. government. Once you have been accepted, the school will issue you a certificate (SEVIS Form I-20). You must also be a bona fide student pursing a full course of study. A full course of study depends upon the program.

For example, if you are an undergraduate at a U.S. university, you must be enrolled in at least 12 semester hours. It is important to note that F-1 students are limited to taking only a minimum number of online classes. However, if you are an F-1 student in a language program, you can’t count online classes toward your full course requirement. The program you are enrolled in must lead to the attainment of a specific educational or vocational objective, such as a diploma or certificate.

You must also know English well enough to study effectively. Additionally, most colleges and universities will not admit students unless they pass the English proficiency test (TOEFL). You will also need to show that you have enough money to support yourself without working for the entire length of the program.

You will need to show at the time you apply for the F-1 visa that you have enough cash on hand to cover all expenses for the first-year. Additionally, because student visas are temporary, you will need to show an intent to return home after you have completed your studies.

Once you qualify for an F-1 visa your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can get an F2 visa. The school will issue separate I-20 forms for them. They will be unable to work in the United States.

Therefore, you will need to show proof of the family relationship and that you have enough money to support them while you are pursuing your studies.
Visit our immigration page to learn more about the services that we provide.

While the love and responsibilities you share with your partner are exactly the same as that of your non-gay family and friends, unfortunately Florida law sees it another way. State and federal law generally does not recognize concrete legal and tax rights and privileges for same-sex couples. Since gay or lesbian couples lack the same tax, inheritance and employment benefits that marriage bestows, these benefits must be created through the use of estate planning documents and contracts.

The Plan You Cannot Afford

For those who have not planned their estate, the State of Florida dictates one for you under the statute that applies to persons who die without a will (“intestate”). Under the laws of intestacy, the estate of a person who dies without a will or trust passes (after lengthy and costly probate proceedings) to biological relatives under the traditional family model.

There are two problems with intestacy. The first and most important problem is that Florida intestacy laws discriminate against same-sex couples by not considering gay and lesbian relationships in the distribution of the estate of a deceased partner who dies without a will. In fact, the surviving partner under Florida intestacy is left with nothing upon the death of a partner, regardless of the length and intensity of the relationship. Florida’s same sex couples cannot rely on intestacy laws in place of estate planning.

Second, all property that is distributed according to Florida intestacy laws will be subject to “probate”.

What is Probate and Why Should it be Avoided?

Probate is a legal process in which your property is identified, inventoried, and distributed to your heirs after your death.
There are three important reasons you may wish to avoid probate. First, it is expensive. The fee for probate is set by statute in Florida. For formal administration, the attorney alone is entitled to “reasonable” compensation in the amount of $3,000 for estates of more than $70,000 and less than $100,000; 3% of estates valued from $100,000 to $1 million, and 2 ½% of estates valued from $1 million to $3 million.

A second reason to avoid probate is that it generally ties up your assets for a long time. While the estate is going through the probate process, a lack of cash flow can create problems for your heirs. They may have to pay your mortgage or other debts, or they may be trying to keep your business running. An average probate in Florida takes about one year to complete.

Third, the probate process can involve many visits, letters, and phone calls between the attorney and the executor, and can place a physical and emotional burden on the survivors. The grieving process is difficult enough without the bother and disturbance that is often involved in probating an estate.

How to Provide for Loved Ones

In order to ensure that your property will be received by your partner or your friends the way you intend, you must have an estate plan other than intestacy, such as a will or a living trust.

A will is a document in which you identify to whom your property shall be given after you die. Through a will, you can leave your property to anyone you choose, in whatever proportions you choose, including leaving everything to your partner. If you have minor children, you can name a guardian for them in the will.

There are some major drawbacks to using a simple will as your primary estate planning device:

  • any property passing to your partner, family, friends or other beneficiary pursuant to a will is subject to the costly and time-consuming process of probate.
  • a will can be contested by the decedent’s family, especially if they have not come to terms with the decedent’s choices during life.
  • a will is public, which means that anyone can go to the courthouse and see your will after you die.

Clients often ask, “what about joint tenancy?” Owning assets in joint tenancy can be a useful way to transfer property to your partner. When one joint tenant dies, the remaining joint tenants automatically own the entire asset without probate. However, there are drawbacks:

  • Joint tenancy only delays probate because although the jointly held property passes to the surviving joint tenant without probate, the property is ultimately subject to probate upon the death of the survivor.
  • Putting an asset you own into joint tenancy with your partner results in a current gift to him or her that could result in gift tax and/or the inability to get the asset back.
  • Property owned with someone else as joint tenants is completely subject to the creditors and liabilities of each joint tenant.
  • You have no control over what happens with the property after the death of the surviving joint tenant. The surviving joint tenant may dispose of the property, gift it or bequeath it to whomever he or she chooses.

What You Should Do?

Anyone in a same-sex partnership needs some form of estate planning in order to avoid disinheriting his or her partner. If you do not have an appropriate plan in place, state law will take over, your assets will be tied up in the lengthy and expensive probate process, and will be distributed according to a statute that may not reflect your intent.

By following the suggestions listed below, you can avoid many of these woes.

1. Avoid Probate With a Revocable Living Trust.

A living trust avoids the expense and delay of probate while ensuring the transfer of your assets to your partner and/or friends after death. In a living trust, you name the persons who shall receive your assets (“beneficiaries”) and you appoint someone who will apportion the trust assets after you die (“trustee”). After signing the living trust, you continue to own and fully control all of your assets.
If properly funded, a living trust permits the smooth transfer of assets after death, without the court-supervised probate process. It makes it easier for your partner and for your family. A living trust is less open to challenge than a will and courts are less likely to overturn it since you put the living trust into place and lived with it during your lifetime. Additionally, a living trust does not become public record after you die, so only the beneficiaries have the right to know how you allocated your assets.
You also have the option of keeping the assets in trust for your beneficiary rather than distribute them outright. This allows your beneficiary to have full use and access to the assets during his or her lifetime, and upon the beneficiary’s death, any remaining property can be distributed to other beneficiaries you have designated.

2. Plan for Incapacity with a General Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive.

A General Durable Power of Attorney (GPOA) can be used to appoint your partner and/or friend to act as your agent to make certain decisions for you. Your agent is empowered to perform the actions which you have outlined in the GPOA, such as: making your mortgage payments, collecting money due to you and depositing it in your bank account, paying bills, and even keeping your business running. A GPOA can be drafted to include as many or as few different transactions as you wish.

If you do not prepare and sign a General Durable Power of Attorney, a court appointed guardian is necessary. The guardianship process can be expensive, time-consuming, and distressing; especially if there is a conflict between your partner and a family member.

In Florida, a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate and Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA) allows you to appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Without a HCPOA, hospitals can prevent partners from visiting you in the hospital as “non-family members,” especially if any other family member of a hospitalized domestic partner objects to the other partner’s visiting privileges. Thus, it is essential to execute a HCPOA.

The HCPOA also allows you to make important decisions regarding your health care and your body.

It is also important to execute a Living Will and a HIPAA Authorization. The Living Will allows you to make your wishes plain regarding end-of-life decisions. The HIPAA Authorization provides your partner and/or friends with the right to see and get copies of your medical records and information under federal HIPAA regulations, which are necessary for filing insurance claims, obtaining second opinions and making informed healthcare decisions.

Conclusion

An estate planning attorney can help you put an estate plan in place that reflects your needs and desires, including a Revocable Living Trust, GPOA, HCPOA, Living Will, and HIPAA authorization. The right estate plan protects you during life, enables your partner to have meaningful participation in case of an emergency, and provides for your partner and loved ones upon your death in the fastest and most cost effective method available.

Do not wait until later to put your estate in order. Do it now and know that you and your loved ones are taken care of.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week is October 17th-23rd. In honor of both National Estate Planning Awareness Week and Halloween, we thought it important to share a few “Scary Statistics or Reasons” people do not have a Will or Estate.

It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. A 2004 poll issued by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that two-thirds of Americans over the age of 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement, and nearly one half of all Americans are unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k) plan.

70% of Americans fail to plan because they lack awareness of the consequences of not having a plan in place. Some consequences include difficult and costly guardianship proceedings, the inability to determine how you are cared for during incapacity, costly and prolonged probate processes after death, not caring for your loved ones in the way you would prefer, and having the distribution of your assets dictated by state statute, and even the possibility of your minor children being placed in foster care until a guardian can be appointed by the courts.

62 percent of clients fail to plan because they are under the assumption that estate planning is only for the wealthy. If you have any assets or any children, you have a need to plan. Estate planning is used to protect consumers and their loved ones of all ages and at all stages of life.

Here are some Scary Reasons we’ve heard about why they do not have an Estate Plan:

  1. I am single. Guess what? By not having a will, you allow the state intestacy statute to dictate where your things go. And in case of in capacity, you do not get to designate who will make decisions – financial or medical – for you. An estate plan can do all of these things and more.
  2. I am young and will live a long time yet. While this may be the case, we unfortunately never know when or if we will become incapacitated by random accidents. You should plan and ensure your loved ones can help you in the best way possible as well as ensuring they are taken care of.
  3. I’m afraid that if I plan for it, I will die or become incapacitated. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this can happen even if you do not plan. Wouldn’t you rather make sure you have a plan in place to cover your needs and those of your family members?
  4. My children are too young to inherit anything. This is a twofold problem. You need to have a mechanism in place that allows your children to inherit should you pass away that provides for your children in the way you design, not dictated by guardianship laws and court processes. Also, through planning you can designate who will be the guardian of your minor children and who makes financial decisions until you decide they can receive their inheritance outright. Why leave it all to the courts?
  5. I am not wealthy so I do not need an “estate plan.” If you do not have a lot of wealth, you may not need tax planning but you still should have an estate plan. Estate Planning is the ability to control your assets during your lifetime, to plan for how your assets and your health will be used (and by whom) for your benefit during incapacity, and to determine to whom, how and when your assets will be transferred to your loved ones at your death. And that is something EVERYONE needs.

So take advantage of Estate Planning Awareness Week – contact an estate planning attorney to discuss what estate planning is and how you can benefit and get peace of mind from the estate planning process.

© 2020 The Orlando Law Group.