Practice Areas

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Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

Probate

Guardianship and Guardianship Advocacy

Car Accidents

Personal Injury

Medical Malpractice

Products Liability

Litigation

Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

The Law Offices of Joseph G. Coluccio handles the Estate Planning needs of all clients.  There is a misconception out there that the only people that need to formulate an Estate Plan are the super wealthy.  And this is simply not true.  We recommend that everyone have an Estate Plan in place so that you and your loved ones are cared for by the people that you choose.  A proper Estate Plan will assure you that your assets are distributed to the people that you have chosen at your death, rather than being decided by the Court.  Many residents of Florida have their Estate Planning documents from other States.  In most cases, these documents will be admitted here in Florida but there are instances where some of these foreign documents will be rejected in Florida.  That is why it is necessary to have an experienced Estate Planning Attorney review your existing Estate Plan.  

At our firm, we handle Estate Planning for clients of all ages, married or single, with children, grandchildren or without.  We offer high net-worth Estate and Tax Planning and we also offer a basic Estate Plan package that includes a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, HIPPA Release forms, Living Will (DNR) and Pre-Need Guardian.

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Probate

What is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries. In general, the decedent’s assets pay the probate proceeding’s cost, the decedent’s funeral expenses, then the decedent’s outstanding debts. The remainder of the assets is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries. You can find the Florida Probate Code in Chapter 731 through 735 of the Florida Statues. You can find the rules governing Florida probate proceedings in the , Part I and Part II (Rules 5.010-5.530).There are two types of probate administration under Florida law: formal administration and summary administration. This pamphlet will primarily discuss formal administration.

There is also a non-court-supervised administration proceeding called “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration.” This type of administration applies only in limited circumstances.

What are Probate Assets?
Probate administration applies only to probate assets. Probate assets are those assets owned in the decedent’s sole name at death or owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. Examples of assets or property that may be probate assets may include:

- A bank account or investment account in the sole name of a decedent is a probate asset. A bank account or investment account owned by the decedent and payable on death or transferable on death to another, or held jointly with rights of survivorship with another, may not be a probate asset.

- A life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate is a probate asset. A life insurance policy, annuity contract, or individual retirement account payable to a beneficiary may not be a probate asset.Real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, or the decedent’s name and another person as tenants in common, is a probate asset (unless it is homestead property).

- Real estate titled in the name of the decedent and one or more other persons as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is not a probate asset.  Also, property owned by spouses as tenants by the entirety is not a probate asset on the death of the first spouse to die but goes automatically to the surviving spouse.

This list is not exclusive but is intended to be illustrative.

Why is Probate Necessary?
Probate may be necessary to transfer ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent left a valid Will, the Court will admit the Will (according to procedures) to probate to transfer ownership of probate assets to the named beneficiaries. If the decedent had no Will, probate might be necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to those receiving them under Florida law.  Some assets do not require a probate proceeding to transfer ownership.  You should contact a probate attorney to provide specific guidance.

Probate may also be necessary to wind up the decedent’s financial affairs. Administration of the decedent’s estate ensures that the decedent’s creditors are paid if certain procedures are correctly followed.

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Guardian Advocacy & Minor Guardianship

What is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal proceeding in the circuit courts of Florida in which a guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person. The process is governed by Chapter 744, Florida StatutThe procedure outlined here does not apply for appointment of a guardian advocate over a person with developmental disabilities.

What is a Guardian?
A guardian is an individual or institution (such as a nonprofit corporation or bank trust department) appointed by the court to care for an incapacitated person — called a “ward” — or for the ward’s assets.

Who is Incapacitated?
An incapacitated person is an adult who has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of his or her property or to meet at least some essential health and safety requirements of the person.

How is a Person Determined to be Incapacitated?
Any adult may file a petition with the court to determine another person’s incapacity, setting forth the factual information upon which they base their belief that the person is incapacitated.The court then appoints a committee of three members, usually two physicians and another person who by knowledge, skill, training or education can form an expert opinion. One of the three members of the committee must have knowledge of the type of incapacity alleged in the petition, and each member of the committee must submit a report of findings to the court.The examination of the incapacitated person normally includes: a physical examination, a mental health examination and a functional assessment.The court also appoints an attorney to represent the person alleged to be incapacitated; however, the alleged incapacitated person may substitute his or her own attorney for the attorney appointed by the court. If the majority of the examining committee members conclude that the alleged incapacitated person is not incapacitated in any respect, the judge is required to dismiss the petition. If the examining committee finds the person is unable to exercise certain rights, however, the court schedules a hearing to determine whether the person is totally or partially incapacitated. If a person is found to be incapacitated in any respect, a guardian is appointed at the end of the incapacity hearing unless there are less restrictive alternatives to guardianship that adequately address the person’s incapacity.

Who May Serve as a Guardian?
Any adult resident of Florida, related or unrelated to the potential ward, can serve as a guardian. Certain relatives of the ward who do not live in Florida also may serve as guardian. However, people who have been convicted of a felony or who are incapable of carrying out the duties of a guardian cannot be appointed. Individuals who are professional or public guardians can serve as guardian. Additionally, an institution such as a nonprofit corporation can be appointed guardian, but a bank trust department may act as guardian only of the property.If the incapacitated person has a written declaration of pre-need guardian, the court shall appoint that guardian, as long as he/she/it is qualified, unless the court determines appointing such guardian is contrary to the best interests of the ward.The court may not appoint a guardian in some circumstances in which a conflict of interest may occur.

What Does a Guardian Do?
A guardian who is given authority over property of the ward is required to inventory the property, invest it prudently, use it for the ward’s support and account for it by filing detailed annual reports with the court. In addition, the guardian must obtain court approval for certain financial transactions.The guardian of the ward’s person may exercise those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian, such as providing medical, mental and personal care services and determining the place and kind of residential setting best suited for the ward. The guardian of the person must also present to the court every year a detailed plan for the ward’s care along with a physician’s report.If the court finds the ward partially incapacitated, it will appoint a limited guardian to perform only those rights that the ward is incapable of exercising.

Is a Guardian Accountable?
Yes. A guardian must be represented by an attorney who will serve as “attorney of record.” Guardians are usually required to furnish a bond (financial institutions and public guardians are not required to file a bond) and may be required to complete a court-approved training program.The clerk of the court reviews all annual reports of guardians of the person and property and presents them to the court for approval. Guardians who do not properly carry out their responsibilities may be removed by the court.

Is Guardianship Permanent?
The guardianship does not have to be permanent. If a ward recovers in whole or part from the condition that caused that person to be incapacitated, a petition can be filed with the court to restore the ward’s rights. In such a case, the court will have the ward re-examined and can restore some or all of the ward’s rights.A guardian may be held accountable and removed as guardian if the guardian fails to carry out the expected duties or otherwise becomes ineligible to act as guardian. A guardian also may resign by providing notice to the court.

Is Guardianship The Only Means of Helping an Incapacitated Person?
No. Florida law requires the use of the least restrictive alternative to protect people incapable of caring for themselves and managing their financial affairs whenever possible. If a person creates an advance health care directive, a durable power of attorney or trust while competent, he or she may not require a guardian in the event of incapacity.

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Car Accidents

At the Law Offices of Joseph G. Coluccio, we understand the time following an auto accident can be worrisome for most people. Auto accidents are unpredictable, many times unavoidable and can often have devastating consequences for those involved and their loved ones. While those injured may be eligible for benefits under Florida law, including benefits for lost wages, medical expenses and even pain and suffering; the process for recovering these damages can be difficult and confusing for those unfamiliar with it.          

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, it is important to avoid allowing an unfortunate event to turn into a disastrous one by failing to inform yourself of your rights. Most people will be unfamiliar with the process of making an insurance claim following a car crash and can easily be taken advantage of by insurers. Many times, even low impact accidents can cause serious, lasting injuries. All too often those suffering from these chronic injuries do not realize the nature of the injuries and prematurely enter into a settlement with an insurer that fails to provide for future medical care and treatment that may be necessary.  

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an auto accident due to the negligence of another, you need to contact an experienced car accident lawyer immediately. Negligence on the road is unacceptable, especially when it leads to the injury of another.          

Recent changes in Florida’s No Fault laws now require that you seek medical care and treatment within 14 days of being involved in an accident, or risk losing benefits you would otherwise be entitled to under your own policy. Even the medical care provider you choose may have an impact on your available benefits.

When you contact our firm, you will have the opportunity to speak directly with Mr. Coluccio, who can guide you through the initial process and help you avoid potential pitfalls that insurers may use to deny your claim, as well as answer any questions you may have.

Our experience dealing with insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers will help ensure you are fully and completely compensated for your injuries. We will investigate your claim and represent your best interest in dealing with insurance companies on your behalf while you focus on your recovery.            

Mr. Coluccio provides free consultations to discuss your case and provides answers to the many questions you may have. He will guide you through the process, provide you with advice and assist you in recovering all the money you are entitled to.  If you are offered a low-ball settlement, Mr. Coluccio is fully prepared and experienced in taking your case to a jury trial.

Joseph Coluccio has litigated and successfully tried and settled many Personal Injury cases for Plaintiff’s who were seriously injured and he has recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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Personal Injury

Whether from a dog bite, boating accident, or slip and fall, if you've been injured in Florida, personal injury laws should be at the top of your list of things to investigate, especially if you believe someone else is to blame.

To win money in your case, you must show that another person was careless, or negligent, and that carelessness caused your injury.

In Florida, many personal injury lawyers take cases on contingency, which means that they do not ask for an up-front retainer fee but will take a percentage of any proceeds you collect. Mr. Coluccio has experience in investigating car accident cases from inception all the way to trial.

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Medical 
Malpractice

When a doctor or physician breaches their duty of care or is negligent in the level of care he or she provides, it is imperative that you hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney that has the skills and experience to properly evaluate your case. Medical malpractice lawsuits in Florida are unique as section 766.106, Florida Statutes, require that all medical malpractice case be submitted to a pre-suit.

Prior to filing a medical malpractice action, you must provide a notice of intent to initiate litigation to all potential defendants via certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice must include very specific language and include a full medical history for the past 2 years, including the names of all health care providers and the medical records. The defendant is then given ninety (90) days to conduct a full pre-suit investigation. No lawsuit may be filed during the 90-day period. However, the ninety-day period tolls the statute of limitations.

In Florida, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years from when the patient knew or should have known that an injury occurred due to medical malpractice. This means that knowledge of the injury alone, does not trigger the statute of limitations to begin. Rather, the injured party must have reason to believe or knowledge that the injury was possibly caused by medical malpractice. For example, if a mother gives birth to a stillborn child, the mother is aware that an injury occurred. However, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the mother learns or reasonably should know that the stillborn birth was a product of medical malpractice.

In Florida, in order to prevail in a medical malpractice case, you must show that (1) that a doctor-patient relationship existed, (2) that the doctor deviated from the accepted and prevailing professional standard of care in their treatment of the patient, (3) the deviation of the standard of care injured the patient, and (4) the injury led to the patient incurring damages.

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Products Liability

Manufacturers have a legal responsibility to make and market products that are safe and effective when used as intended. However,defectively designed or manufactured products — or the company’s failure to warn of known defects – often result in injuries and deaths. If you’ve been injured, it’s important to understand the four key elements of a Florida product liability lawsuit and the importance of hiring an experienced attorney to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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Litigation

Although most disputes do end up settling, there are many times that it is necessary to have a zealous advocate competent enough to push a case to a jury trial for you.

Mr. Coluccio has successfully tried many jury trials to verdict. Whether your case involves criminal charges, car accidents, medical malpractice, timeshare litigation, probate litigation, or contract disputes,  you can be assured that if necessary, Mr. Coluccio will take your case to a jury trial to get you a just result.

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