ORLANDO, FLORIDA — ShuffieldLowman partner Stephanie L. Cook has been selected to the Florida Probate Rules Committee, a standing committee of The Florida Bar. The scope and function of the Probate Rules Committee is to carry out the mandate of Rule 2.140, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, concerning the proposal of new rules of procedure and changes to existing rules.

Cook practices in the areas of fiduciary litigation, with extensive experience in trust and probate litigation and contested guardianship cases. As a member of The Florida Bar, she serves on the Probate Law and Procedure Committee, Probate and Trust Litigation Committee, and the Guardianship, Power of Attorneys, and Advance Directives for the Florida Bar’s Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section. Cook is also a member of the Orange County Bar Association and an active member of the Estate Guardianship Trust Section Committee.  She is admitted to practice in the federal court before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and has been frequently named to Florida Trend magazine’s list of Legal Elite and recognized as a Florida Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters.

 She earned her J.D. degree from Barry University School of Law, graduating summa cum laude as the valedictorian of her law class. She holds a B.A. degree from Mississippi College.

 ShuffieldLowman’s five offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand, Port Orange, and the newest location in Lake Nona. The firm is a 50 attorney, full-service law firm, practicing in the areas of litigation, corporate law, estate planning, and real estate. Specific areas include fiduciary, probate and guardianship litigation, commercial and civil litigation, labor and employment, construction law, tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning, and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, and mediation.

We enter into contracts all the time, but what exactly creates a contract? Simply put, a contract is formed when one entity makes an offer to another, and that offer is accepted. Any time you exchange money for services you have likely signed a contract with the service provider.  Have you ever hired a plumber? Did you receive a written estimate that you signed to accept the estimate and begin services? If so, you’ve entered into a contract.

The three essential elements are the offer, acceptance, and consideration. To begin a contract, an offer must first be extended. Details of the agreement, as well as its terms and conditions, should be included. Simply explained, an offer is an attempt by the offeror to enter into a contract with another party. Once the offer has been made, the offeree has the option of accepting or rejecting the proposal and its terms and conditions. Finally, to have a legitimate legal agreement, something of value must be exchanged such as money, merchandise, property, protection, or services. If the parties are not trading in money, they should ensure that whatever they are trading, commonly known as their consideration, is considered valuable by the court.

Dissecting a contract even further, there are 7 key ingredients that should be included in a contract: Who, What, Where, When, How Much, The Date, and Signatures. The “Who” in the case of contracts are the parties involved. Let’s say you call a plumber to fix a leak. In this case, you and the company the plumber works for is the “who.”

The “What” is the scope of work. The scope of work is the section of a contract or agreement where all expected activities and deliverables are detailed with the goal of harmonizing expectations between both parties is known as the “tasks and deliverables section.” You and the plumber are discussing the problem and they tell you the leak is part of a bigger problem and outline what work needs to be done to correct the issue. They write up a proposal explaining the scope of work. This is the “what.”

The ”Where” is the location of the work. In the case of the plumber, your home is likely the “where” with special attention to specific locations affected such as the front or back yard, the bathroom, the kitchen, etc.

The “When” is the timeline of work. The plumber, in their written estimate that will become a contract if you sign it, will lay out the timeline for completion of the project. It may take a week to get a special part, and then a day to do the work,  and another day to follow up.

The “How Much” is the terms of payment. What will it cost for whatever merchandise, property, protection, or services you’d receive? Going back to our plumber example, the quote you will sign will tell you how much the services will cost and the payment timeline. Will you have to pay a deposit? Will you pay the balance upon completion?

The “Date” is simply the date the contract becomes effective. Usually, that is the date the contract is signed.

Finally, the “Signatures” close the deal and the contract is complete. The plumber has given you the scope of work, the location of the work, the timeline of the work, the expected payment terms, and has dated the estimate. Now you accept or decline. You’ve decided the plumber you’ve called is giving you a good deal, so you accept and sign the estimate.

You now have a contract with the plumber’s company. You have been given an offer, you have accepted, and you have met the consideration standards. In doing so you have met all seven key ingredients for a contract. You know the who, what, where, when, how much, have the date, and have given your signature to confirm your intent to follow through with the agreement. Our commercial litigation, real estate, construction teams, and other attorneys within our practice areas are here to advise our clients on their options based on the specific terms outlined in their contracts. For more information and assistance with a contract, you can contact us here.

Orlando, Florida – ShuffieldLowman partner Keith J. Hesse recently was awarded the St. Thomas More Award from the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Central Florida during the annual Red Mass held at St. James Cathedral.

The St. Thomas More Award is presented annually to a member of the legal profession whose accomplishments represent the principles of St. Thomas More. The recipient must be a practicing Catholic who displays a commitment to Catholic social teachings, promotes Christian principles to modern problems, promotes the social, intellectual, and spiritual welfare of the people they serve, and offers personal sacrifice for the good of the community. The Red Mass is an annual special event for the legal profession and has been held in Central Florida and throughout the country for many years.  It is attended by judges, attorneys, law professors, and their students, as well as government officials in the legislative and executive branches.

Hesse has more than 38 years of experience practicing law in the areas of commercial and corporate litigation, labor and employment, non-profit law, and real property litigation.  In addition, he has extensive experience in probate, trust, and guardianship disputes, representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries, and creditors.  He is an attorney and advisor to a variety of individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations and he is heavily involved in representing the manufacturing industry.

Hesse graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. and University of Michigan Law School with a J.D. He is a member of The Florida Bar and admitted to all Florida State Courts, U.S. Tax Court. U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit and U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.  He holds the AV preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is a frequent speaker and author.

 He is a member of both the Florida Bar and the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Sections, active in the Orange County Bar Association and Legal Aid Society, a graduate of the Leadership Orlando program, and the former Chair of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee.  In the community, he has served on the boards of and otherwise worked to support Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Florida, Junior Achievement, and other philanthropic organizations.  He served for years on the Advisory Board for Barry Law School and was instrumental in helping it obtain ABA accreditation.

ShuffieldLowman’s five offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand, Port Orange, and the newest location in Lake Nona. The firm is a 45-attorney, full-service law firm, practicing in the areas of commercial and civil litigation, corporate law, estate planning, real estate, and litigation. Specific areas include tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning, and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, fiduciary litigation, construction law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, labor and employment, and mediation.

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ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Two ShuffieldLowman partners were recently selected as 2021 Legal Elite attorneys by Florida Trend magazine. The “Legal Elite” designation represents fewer than 1.2% of the active Florida Bar members who practice in the state. The ShuffieldLowman partners honored are Alexander “Alex” S. Douglas II and Heidi W. Isenhart.

Florida Trend magazine collects ballots from Florida Bar members, asking lawyers to name attorneys whom they hold in the highest regard and would recommend to others. The results of the annual survey are published in Florida Trend magazine.

Douglas practices in the area of fiduciary litigation, with an emphasis in trust, probate and guardianship litigation. Isenhart practices in the areas of elder law, Medicaid planning, guardianship, probate and trust administration, estate planning and special needs trusts.

ShuffieldLowman’s five offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand, and Port Orange. The firm is a 45 attorney, full-service law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, estate planning, real estate and litigation. Specific areas include tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, commercial and civil litigation, fiduciary litigation, construction law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, labor and employment, and mediation.

This week ShuffieldLowman Partner, Heidi Isenhart, was featured in a member spotlight for the Rotary Club of Orlando. In the article, they discuss Heidi’s role as past and incoming president of the RCO Foundation as well as her impressive achievements in law and in life. Read the article below and visit the Rotary Club of Orlando website here: https://www.rotarycluboforlando.org/.

 

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Attorneys Alex Douglas and Stephanie Cook recently contributed to a Florida Bar Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section’s (RPPTL) ActionLine article: “As the RPPTL World Turns: The Impact of the Pandemic and Remote/Zoom Hearings, Depositions, and Mediations on Your Trusts and Estates Litigation Practices.”  The authors performed a series of interviews with a cross-section of RPPTL Section members who practice primarily Trusts and Estates Litigation. The interviews were designed to learn how their practices have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The article covered topics including working from home, Zoom hearings, depositions, mediations, business development, technology, and captured the attorney’s post-pandemic thoughts. One thing everyone agreed on was that Zoom was the new normal.

The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section’s ActionLine is a quarterly publication containing the latest news on Florida law of concern to RPPTL members and reporting on current Section activities.

 

The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulates and restricts personal ownership of certain weapons.  NFA firearms that are allowable in Florida include machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, grenades, large caliber weapons, and silencers.  Such weapons, when registered directly to a Florida resident, may only be used and possessed by that individual resident.  As such, if a Florida resident, who owns an NFA weapon, becomes incapacitated at any point, their NFA weapons are subject to confiscation by the government.  When a Florida resident who owns NFA weapons passes-away, the weapons will transfer to the beneficiaries under the terms of the deceased owner’s last will and testament by way of a court-supervised probate process.  Probate can be costly and time-consuming; and, the executor of the probate estate must apply with the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) before any NFA weapon transfer can be made to a beneficiary or other transferee.

Transfer planning for NFA weapons should be given careful consideration, as the NFA makes it illegal for a person to knowingly, or having reasonable cause to believe, sell or dispose of a firearm or ammunition to any person who is:

NFA weapons are clearly not items that can be freely given or sold to just any person.

So, what is a gun trust and who would want one?  The person who establishes their gun trust is known as the grantor.  The gun trust is the title owner of the NFA weapons and the grantor names a trustee or trustees to manage the trust and the trust owned property.  The grantor will typically name him or herself as an initial trustee of the gun trust.  When an NFA weapon is titled to a Florida gun trust it can be held and used by more than one person, e.g., a husband, wife, adult children, friends, etc.…  The grantors named trustees will all be able to possess and use any weapon owned by the trust.  A trustee must be at least eighteen (18) years old and otherwise legally allowed to possess and use a firearm.  The grantor may also name beneficiaries who would receive the weapons in the event of the grantor’s death, incapacitation, or other legal disqualification from possessing a firearm.  A beneficiary can be a minor.  The grantor is free to change any of the trustees and/or beneficiaries throughout his or her lifetime.  When the grantor is deceased or if he or she is rendered incapacitated, the NFA weapons that are titled to a Florida gun trust can avoid probate or confiscation and pass to a successor or beneficiaries pursuant to the terms of the trust.  Additionally, a Florida gun trust can provide a higher level of privacy as the NFA weapons are titled to the trust and not to individuals.  A probate proceeding is not a private affair and is in fact a matter of public record.  A trust is a private document that is not required to be made public in Florida and it is often utilized to avoid a court-supervised probate proceeding.

A Florida gun trust can be a very helpful planning tool for those enthusiasts and/or collectors who are interested in arranging for legal use by multiple people and a simple transfer once they have passed, become incapacitated, or are otherwise disqualified from possessing a firearm.  Florida gun trusts have several requirements to be legally effective and the NFA has rather strict fines and criminal penalties.  The trust should be discussed with and prepared by an attorney with advanced knowledge in firearm trust planning. To learn more about firearm trust planning, contact one of the attorneys on our estate planning teams.