Attorney Patricia Ferrari’s Legal Tips for a Smooth 2020

The Estate and Trusts Expert Specializes in Helping Families Preserve and Protect Assets and Wealth

Originally from Chicago, Patricia Ferrari graduated from John Marshall Law School and practiced law in the Windy City for a year before the cold made her move to Florida in 1982. One of the first female attorneys to practice in Manatee County, Patricia has spent her professional life mastering the ins and outs of Florida law.

“Coming from the big city back then, it was quite an eye-opening experience working in little Manatee County,” Patricia says and laughs. “Everything emptied out in the off-season. A judge back then asked me why I was working in the wilderness. Manatee County was considered the wilderness back then!”

Every since she arrived, Patricia has seen nothing but growth in Florida. Following that growth to our region, she has opened an office right here in the West Villages, at the entrance to the Atlanta Braves’ Cool Today Park. 

“My specialty has always been estate planning and asset protection and preservation,” Patricia explains. “One great thing that snowbirds don’t fully understand is that Florida law protects their assets with proper planning from potential liabilities, creditors and financial problems.”

Since the day she first started law school, Patricia’s goal was always to help people, to be a translator of legalese into plain English so that her clients would have no questions when they would leave her office with the documents she had prepared to protect and preserve their assets.

In the West Villages since August of 2018, Patricia loves being in a high-growth area, having established offices in other high-growth areas of Florida.

“My clientele are people who have moved to Florida from other states,” Patricia says. “They do not understand the protections to their assets that Florida offers. Just like estate planning, nothing here is one-size-fits-all. What is good for your neighbor might not be right for you. That’s why you need to consult with an attorney.”

Patricia specializes as well in nursing homes and finding the right fit for each of her client’s various needs. “Many of my clients are in need of a nursing home for their parents or a spouse with dementia,” she explains. “End of life diseases progress and require 24/7 care. Nursing homes are very expensive. Most middle-class families cannot possibly afford them. So we educate them on assistance through the Florida Medicaid program. People are surprised at the amount of assets they can have and still qualify. I get hugs because of my help with this. It is so very rewarding. People come in here frightened and they leave relieved.”

Patricia cautions that Medicare planning is different in Florida than in other states. To fully explore all options, a consultation with an informed attorney is necessary.

“It’s the same thing with trusts,” Patricia says. “People need to come in and sit down with me.”

An avid scuba diver and boater, Patricia loves the Florida lifestyle. “When I am not helping people, I love diving with my husband, Jimmy. We’ll be diving the wreck of the Vandenberg this weekend in the Keys. I have loved living in Florida and helping the people who move here all these years.”

1. Make sure you have a Durable Power of Attorney.  

If you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated, and you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney, financial accounts individually titled cannot be accessed without an Order from the Court establishing a Guardianship. The Durable Power of Attorney allows the person or persons you appoint to access your accounts and handle your financial affairs until the incapacity is over. The Durable Power of Attorney does not give the person or persons you appoint any ownership interest in the account. 

2. Review any potential liabilities.  

Did you know that it is never a good idea to have your children or other individuals named on your financial accounts? All persons named on the account are considered to have an ownership interest. If one of the persons named on your account has financial difficulties, the balance in the account can be claimed by that person’s creditors. 

Did you know that if the title to a motor vehicle is jointly held, both owners are liable for any damages caused by its operation of the vehicle even though one of the owners was not involved in the accident? For example, I recently had a consultation with an individual who owned a vehicle with his spouse and was involved in an accident. The spouse of the individual was not even in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Nevertheless, both he and his spouse received a letter from their insurance company informing them that the accident victim was claiming more than the limits of their insurance policy. The letter also informed them that the assets of both husband and wife were now at risk for any excess judgment.  

3. Review all of your financial accounts. Check to see that you have beneficiaries designated on these accounts. Ask your financial institutions for Payable on Death or Transfer on Death designation forms so, in the event of your demise, the funds pass automatically to the named beneficiaries without the need for Probate.

4. Make sure you have a Health Care Surrogate or Medical Power of Attorney.

If you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated and cannot give informed consent to medical or diagnostic procedures, you want to make sure that you have someone designated to be your health care advocate to carry out your wishes with respect to medical care and treatment.

5. Make sure you have a Last Will and Testament.  

You want to make sure that there are no family squabbles over family heirlooms, or assets that you don’t have a designated beneficiary, after you pass. Most wills allow you to leave a signed memorandum specifying who is to receive the family heirlooms, and personal property (other than money) to prevent future dissension in the family. With respect to financial assets that have no beneficiary designated, your will allows you to designate how you want those financial assets divided.

6. Make sure you have a Living Will.  

Make sure that you are in control of end of life decisions.  A Living Will specifies your desires when you are at the end of your life and takes the pressure off of your loved ones to make those decisions. 

Remember, asset protection and estate planning are not one-size-fits-all. There are other legal tools not mentioned in this article that are available to Florida residents that will provide further assistance in preserving your legacy and making for a smooth 2020. It is important that you consult with an attorney experienced in these areas to address individual concerns and special circumstances. 

West Villages Office Park, 19503 S. West Villages Parkway Suite A1-105, Venice. 941.993.9297.

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