How to Put Real Estate into a Trust in Sarasota County, Florida

As a real estate lawyer, I occasionally have clients approach me who want their homes or other pieces of real estate placed into their trust. The process is relatively simple, and involves the preparation of a “Deed into Trust”. This deed works like any other deed. It is designed to convey the property from the individual owner to their trust.

Here is a brief overview of the steps involved in moving a piece of real estate into a trust. As always, this article is not designed to be legal advice. It’s designed to provide you with a general overview of the process. Improperly preparing a deed can have serious consequences for the parties involved, and for that reason I always recommend hiring a lawyer to prepare deeds of any kind. It does not cost much to have a lawyer prepare a proper deed.

Review the Trust and Current Deed

The first step is to review the current deed for the piece of real estate in question, and to look at the trust to ensure that it is a valid trust and allows the owner of the trust to place real estate inside it.

We look at the current deed to verify who the owner is, and to ensure that it matches the trust. Hopefully there are no surprises! Once we are satisfied with the trust and the current deed, we can move to drafting our document placing the real estate into the trust.

Prepare the Deed into Trust

Once we have done our homework and confirm that this property can be placed into a trust, the next step is to prepare the deed itself. This is relatively straight forward, but requires the lawyer to carefully review all documentation to ensure that the deed is drafted properly.

Review and Execute the Deed

After the deed has been drafted, the next step is to sit down with the client and execute the deed. I like to do this in person with local clients, but there are a lot of out of state property owners in Sarasota County. In those situations I mail the clients the deed along with detailed instructions for reviewing and executing the document.

Record the Deed

After the Deed into Trust has been properly executed, the final step is to record the deed with the local Clerk of Court. There is a small filing fee associated with this step that is paid to the Clerk. The Clerk will take the deed, record it in the public record, and then mail the original deed back to my office or to the client.

After the Clerk has recorded the deed the real estate is officially inside the trust and the job is done.

Deeds into Trust – Final Thoughts

I hope that this article have provided you with a good overview as to how to add a house to a trust. Placing a deed into a trust is a routine and straight forward task for a real estate lawyer. It can be done quickly and cost effectively. Please feel free to call my office at (941) 882-4367 or send me an email if you would like to discuss placing your real estate into your trust. I assist clients in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Manatee Counties with preparing deeds.

Uncontested Divorces in Sarasota County

After considering the differences between a contested and uncontested divorce you and your spouse have decided to go the route of the uncontested divorce. This means that any and all of issues surrounding division of marital property, and spousal support (alimony) have been decided. If there are minor children of the marriage, then issues surrounding the children including timesharing (who has the kids when), parental responsibility (who makes decisions regarding how the children are raised), and child support have been worked out.

If you and your spouse have agreed on all of these issues then you are to be congratulated. This is the hardest part of a divorce proceeding, and a lot of time, money, and emotional energy can be spent figuring these issues out. The decision to resolve your divorce early, amicably, and fairly is often the best choice for the clients. It doesn’t generate the mountain of legal fees of a contested divorce. With the negotiations out of the way, all that is left is to prepare the paperwork and get everything finalized.

I am a family law and divorce lawyer located in Venice, Florida, and I routinely assist parties with uncontested divorces in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Manatee County. The purpose of this article is to explain the process of an uncontested divorce. I will specifically be discussing the nuances to an uncontested divorce in Sarasota County, but a majority of this article will apply to the entire State of Florida.

Initial Considerations When Hiring a Lawyer

The first point to understand about hiring a lawyer to handle an uncontested divorce is that the lawyer cannot represent both parties. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but lawyers have a fiduciary duty to a singular client and they cannot represent both sides of a transaction. I often receive calls from potential clients that want to bring their spouse to the initial consultation. I can’t do that – even if the parties have fully agreed on all issues and it is uncontested.

Even after the initial consultation I cannot provide the other party with legal advice. I can talk with the other side (and that’s usually the first thing I do), but I cannot give them legal advice. The only advice I can give them is that they have a right to hire their own lawyer.

This may initially seem to throw a wrench in an otherwise non-adversarial process. After all, one party has a lawyer now, and the other party does not. I do my best to work with the other side on my disputes, whether it is a hotly contested matter, or an uncontested matter. I do that because it is typically in the best interests of my clients. Still, I am bound by Florida law and the rules governing lawyers.

Preparing the Paperwork

After discussing the matter thoroughly with the client, and reaching out to the other spouse to confirm this is something they are interested in proceeding with, I then draft a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). This is the document that governs all of the issues of the divorce (except for cases with minor children; most issues involving minor children are governed by a second document called a Parenting Plan).

After preparing the MSA and making sure the client is comfortable with it, I forward the agreement to the other spouse (or their lawyer, if they choose to hire one) for their review. At that point they are free to agree to review the agreement, and seek legal advice from their own lawyer if they wish. If the agreement is satisfactory, then I prepare the remaining documents for the divorce.

The remaining documents for an uncontested divorce without children include the Petition, Answer, Notice of Social Security Number, Financial Affidavit, Judgment, and Special Interrogatories. If the divorce includes children then a Parenting Plan, Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and UCCJEA Affidavit need to be prepared. Both parties also need to take a parenting course if children are involved.

Financial Disclosure

The judges in Sarasota County have recently switched to requiring both parties in all divorce cases to complete Financial Affidavits, and to have those Financial Affidavits filed with the Court. In the past judges were not so stringent with this requirement, but as of the time of the publication of this article Financial Affidavits are required for all divorce cases in Sarasota County.

Financial Affidavits require disclosure of all the income, expenses, assets, and liabilities of the individual completing the affidavit. If the person completing the affidavit makes less than $50,000 a year, then they can complete a Short Form Financial Affidavit. IF the person makes more than $50,000 a year, then they must complete a Long Form Financial Affidavit.

If the parties are absolutely dead set on not completing Financial Affidavits, then they can get around this requirement by undergoing a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is a special divorce process that requires both parties to execute the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and requires both parties to attend a final hearing (this requirement cannot be waived for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage).

Special Interrogatories vs. a Final Hearing

It used to be that in order to finalize a divorce the parties needed to attend a hearing in Court prior to the judge finalizing the divorce. The judges in Sarasota County have recently (within the past year or so) permitted the use of a document called Special Interrogatories, if one of the parties was represented by an attorney.

Special Interrogatories are an affidavit completed by the Petitioner that can be mailed to the judge and replace a final hearing. This essentially allows the parties to perform a “mail away” divorce. Special Interrogatories are great because they don’t require the parties to go to Court (saving both time and money), and they allow for divorces to be completed faster. Typically, hearings are scheduled at least a month out. Special Interrogatories can be turned around by a judge in as little as 3 business days. Typically, I tell clients that they take a week or two.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

I have completed uncontested divorces in as little as two weeks. That is from initial consultation to a signed Final Judgment. I can’t promise results, and certainly can’t promise that I will get your divorce done within two weeks, but if the parties are motivated, the matter is truly uncontested, and if everyone works quickly and professionally, it is very possible to get an uncontested divorce done in a few weeks.

I do this routinely, and I derive tremendous satisfaction from quickly completing an uncontested divorce.

How Much Does and Uncontested Divorce Cost?

The question of “How much will this cost?” often comes up very early in my conversations with potential clients seeking an uncontested divorce. It’s an important question. Obviously I cannot speak for all lawyers, but I offer a flat fee of $1,500 for the most basic of uncontested divorces (without children). Divorces with children start at a flat fee of $2,000. These flat fees include the $400 filing fee.

If there are complicated issues, more substantial negotiation, or additional work involved (e.g., the preparation of a deed or other ancillary documents), then there is an additional charge for these additional services.

Uncontested Divorces – Final Thoughts

I hope this article has been useful in explaining uncontested divorces and how the process specifically works in Sarasota County. Uncontested divorces won’t be a viable option for every divorcing couple, but if they are an option then they can be the best way to quickly bring closure to a difficult situation.

If you are interested in discussing your uncontested divorce in Sarasota, Manatee, or Charlotte County with me, then please feel free to call my office at (941) 882-4367 or send me an email at dan@danpolicastrolaw.com.

The Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Florida Divorce

When it comes to the overall cost of a divorce in Florida, the most important consideration is whether to file a contested or uncontested divorce. The difference between the two is simple, but the consequences can be dramatic. The goal of this article is to explain the differences between contested and uncontested divorce proceedings.

I am a family law attorney based in Venice, Florida and I help people with both contested and uncontested divorces here in Sarasota County as well as in Charlotte County and Manatee County.

Initial Considerations

Keep in mind that Florida is a no-fault state, so parties can obtain a divorce in Florida without proving any reason other than “irreconcilable differences” provided they meet the residency requirements. There is no need to prove adultery, abandonment, or some other cause for the divorce.

Issues like infidelity can come into the picture when resolving issues like the division of marital property, alimony, and child custody, but they are not necessary to file for divorce and have no immediate bearing on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

Uncontested Divorces

An uncontested divorce is when Continue reading

How to Change Your Name in Sarasota, Florida

You are reading this article because you are considering having your name legally changed. Maybe you have recently been divorced and did not restore your name at the end of the divorce. Or perhaps you have some other reason. After 9-11, the Florida DMV has tightened their regulations regarding renewing driver’s licenses, and I am getting an increasing number of clients who are contacting my office after having problems renewing their Florida driver’s license.

There is no doubt that you have questions, including: “How long does a name change take?” “What are the requirements for a name change in Florida?” and of course there is the ever-important, “How much will it cost?”

My goal is to answer all of those questions for you in this article.

Before we get too far into this, I want to mention that I am a family law attorney in Venice, Florida. I handle all kinds of family law issues, including name changes, in Venice, Sarasota, and the surrounding area (specifically, I also work in Charlotte and Manatee County).

Sarasota County happens to be part of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida so this article will discuss getting a name changed within the 12th Judicial Circuit. The rules for each circuit may be a little different so it’s important to keep that in mind.

The Basic Idea

Basically, to get your name changed you need to file what is called a Continue reading

How to Perform a Stepparent Adoption in Sarasota County

Performing a stepparent adoption is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a family law lawyer. Most of my time is spent litigating divorces and post divorce proceedings, so the chance to help a family come together is a welcome change of pace.

This article is for educational purposes only, and is designed to be a brief overview of how the stepparent adoption process works in Sarasota, Florida. I am a family law lawyer located in Venice, Florida and perform stepparent adoptions in Venice, Sarasota, Bradenton, Port Charlotte and the surrounding areas.

Contested vs. Uncontested Stepparent Adoptions

Like a fingerprint, each person’s stepparent adoption is unique to that person. The biggest variable is whether the parent giving up the adopted child (the person whose parental rights are being terminated) is going to contest the adoption or not.

If the biological parent giving up their rights is not interested in contesting the proceeding, we typically have them sign a consent. If the consent is signed then they do not need to be involved with the proceedings any further. If they will not sign a consent then they need to be served with notice of the adoption proceedings and be given an opportunity to respond. If they are served with notice and respond contesting the adoption, then the court will conduct a hearing to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

If the child to be adopted is over the age of 12, then they too must sign a consent. All consent forms need to be signed with 2 witnesses and a notary.

The Adoption Petition

The adoption petition is the heart of the adoption proceeding, and states all of the relevant facts required under the Florida Statutes to support the adoption. This is where common information, including the names of the parties, is noted. This is also where the adopting parent outlines why they wish to adopt the child and that they can support the child. If the child’s name is going to be changed then that information needs to also be included in the petition.

The adoption petition is a “verified” petition, which means that it is a sworn document signed by the client, and it needs to be signed in the presence of a notary public.

It is also common to have the biological parent sign the Petition as well. This is called “Joint Petition” where both the biological parent and stepparent sign the paperwork together.

Requirements Prior to the Final Hearing

Before the parties can go in front of the judge and complete the stepparent adoption, there are a number of steps that need to be adhered to. The exact steps will depend slightly on the circumstances.

A search of the Florida Putative Father’s Registry will need to be performed; even if the biological father is known. If the adoption involves an adoption agency or a surrendered infant documents need to be filled out and filed in the case.

These ducks all need to be in a row prior to contacting the Judge’s office to schedule a final hearing. Depending on the judge there may be strict requirements prior to scheduling a final hearing. Some judges will require an “adoption checklist” signed by the attorney handling the adoption to be filed prior to granting permission to set the final hearing.

The Final Hearing

The final hearing is the culmination of the stepparent adoption. If all of the paperwork has been properly completed, and if all of the procedural hoops have been jumped through, the final hearing should be relatively short. The Judge will want to meet with the parties and the child to review the petition and ask any final questions prior to signing off on the final judgment. Generally, a final hearing for an uncontested stepparent adoption should not take more than 10 minutes. People are usually surprised at how quickly the final hearing goes.

Once the Judge signs the Judgment, the paperwork is taken to the Clerk of Court for recording. At this point the adoption is complete.

A typical uncontested stepparent adoption will take 2-3 months to complete on average.

Sarasota County Stepparent Adoptions – Final Thoughts

I hope this article has been helpful for those considering a stepparent adoption. Like most legal procedures, a lot of care and planning is required up front to avoid any problems when it’s time for a final hearing. My role as an attorney is to guide you through the process.

If you are interested in a stepparent adoption in Sarasota, Manatee or Charlotte County I invite you to contact my office to discuss the process further.

Filing for Divorce in Florida – An Overview

As a family law attorney, I help individuals get through one of the most difficult times of their lives: divorce.

We all know that divorce can be a painful event, but unless you regularly work with family law matters like I do you may not know much about the actual divorce process. Many think filing for divorce is merely a matter of filling out some documents and filing them with the state. In reality there is much more to the process.

In the following article I will take you through the entire process from start to finish, and give you a bird’s eye perspective of what to expect if you are considering filing for divorce in Florida (or have been served as a party to a divorce in Florida).

Initial Filings

To start the divorce process on party, referred to as the “Petitioner”, needs to Continue reading

Sarasota County Unlawful Detainer Attorney

I am a real estate and landlord tenant lawyer located in Venice, Florida. I routinely assist residential and commercial landlords evict tenants in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte County. I take great pride in assisting these clients get possession of their property back.

I have also removed occupants from property under a variety of circumstances that don’t necessarily fall under landlord tenant law.

Occasionally, I meet a property owner that wants to remove someone that is not a tenant. Often this is a situation where you have invited someone into your home and allowed them to stay as a guest, only to later find out that the person does not want to leave even after you have asked them to. These are typically domestic disputes involving ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, adult children, extended family, or friends. These can be delicate situations with the root cause being alcohol and drug abuse. Unfortunately, the police are unable to remove these unwanted guests, and at first glance the legal system does not provide a clear solution for these kinds of problems, because they cannot be solved with a typical eviction.

Thankfully, there is a remedy for these situations, and I routinely represent clients in removing unwanted occupants in these exact kinds of situations. Continue reading

How to Evict a Holdover Tenant in Florida

Today I am going to discuss how to evict a holdover tenant in the state of Florida. Specifically, I am going to talk about performing holdover tenant evictions in Sarasota County. These types of evictions can be somewhat confusing because the relevant Florida Statutes aren’t entirely clear on the process and requirements.

That said, evicting on basis of being a holdover is a powerful means of removing a tenant, and is one of my preferred strategies in instances where you have an at will (month-to-month) tenancy. A properly set up holdover eviction affords the tenant no way out of the lawsuit.

So you understand where I am coming from when I write this article, I am a landlord tenant lawyer in Venice, Florida. I represent clients throughout Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties in all manner of commercial and residential landlord / tenant matters. It is my hope that this article helps you understand how to approach a holdover tenant eviction.

For more general information on evictions, I invite you to read my general evictions article.

The following article is for educational purposes only, is designed to provide a brief overview of the process, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you have questions about how to perform an eviction or holdover eviction, ask a landlord tenant lawyer who practices in the County where your rental property is located.

What is a Holdover Tenant?

It’s important to first understand what a holdover tenant actually is. This is important because Continue reading

All About Escrow Deposit Disputes in Sarasota County

Escrow disputes arise when the buyer and seller in a contract for the sale of real estate do not close on their contract, and cannot agree to the division of the deposit paid by the buyer into escrow. This deposit is sometimes referred to as an “earnest money” deposit and is used to secure the buyer’s performance of a real estate purchase agreement. Escrow disputes crop up when a real estate transaction does not get completed and both the buyer and seller feel they are entitled to the deposit.

As a real estate litigation attorney in Venice Florida, I have had the opportunity to work with all kinds of disputes regarding escrowed funds for real estate contracts. I have represented buyers, sellers, and the escrow holders themselves. What follows is a general overview of how these disputes are handled.

Look to the Contract

When faced with an escrow deposit dispute the first step is to look to the language of the purchase agreement contract regarding dispute resolution. This language will almost always control. Continue reading

Florida LLC vs. S Corp vs. C Corp – Which is Best for My Business?

As a business attorney in the Sarasota County, Florida, I often help new business owners on set up their corporate entities. One of the first questions asked is, “Which entity is right for me and my business?”

The answer is, invariably, it depends. This is a complicated question for many reasons, but it’s one that is well worth answering because establishing a corporate entity will (if done right) provide you with three major advantages:

  1. It will limit your liability;
  2. It will limit your tax exposure; and
  3. It will allow you to divide ownership.

These are the major benefits to operating your business under some form of corporate entity, and these 3 reasons should play heavily into your decision to selecting which entity is right for you. However, there is a fourth factor, and that is the amount of red tape and overhead attached to operating your new entity. As a new business owner you will have a lot of aspects of the business to manage, and you will have to attend to everything with limited time and limited funds. The ideal business entity protects the owners from liability, limits tax exposure, allows ownership to be divided easily, and doesn’t require a ton of time or money to maintain.

The purpose of this article is to run through the three major types of business entities you will encounter, and to list some of the differences between the entity types, as well as the pros and cons of each entity.

The LLC

The LLC or Limited Liability Company is the simplest form of corporate entity. The LLC has only recently become popular in the United States, but has become a favorable choice for small businesses because they are inexpensive to establish, easy to manage, and still offer protection from liability stemming from actions of the company.

LLCs are pass through entities, meaning that the profits from the company pass directly through the company to the owners. Instead of the company itself being taxed and having to file a tax return, the individuals who own the LLC receive a percentage of the profits based on their ownership share (their “pro rata” share), and then they report that income (less deductible business expenses) on their personal income taxes. Of course, if the business is losing money the owners report that loss. The bottom line is that everything flows from the LLC to the business owner and the profits get taxed one time at the individual level.

LLCs are nice because they are inexpensive to form and can be operated with few corporate formalities. Used properly, they can insulate you from personal liability and allow you to divide ownership between multiple parties without an excessive amount of red tape. However, if the business starts generating a lot of money, it is all reported as ordinary income and subject to self employment tax.

The S Corporation

An S Corporation is best described as a hybrid between an LLC and C Corporation. Like the LLC, it is a pass through entity where all of the profits and losses flow to the owners of the company, but like a C Corporation the company is owned by shareholders. The key advantage to an S Corp over an LLC is that the owners of the S Corp can pay themselves a reasonable salary (subject to FICA tax and other withholding requirements), but the remaining net earnings can be distributed as passive dividend income not subject to self employment tax. The advantage of an LLC over an S Corp is that there is less paperwork and corporate formalities with establishing and maintaining an LLC.

However, to make matters even more interesting, LLCs can elect to be classified as a S Corporation in the eyes of the IRS to avail themselves the tax benefits of an S Corp. That provides the business owner with the flexibility of administration that comes with an LLC, and the flexibility of tax treatment of business income with the S Corp.

The C Corporation

When you think of a C Corporation, think of your traditional big business that is listed on a public stock exchange. Like an S Corporation, the C Corporation is organized by shares and allows for sophisticated options when it comes to dividing ownership. The key difference with a C Corp is that its income is taxed on two levels: the company is taxed on the corporate level, and then the profits that get distributed to the shareholders get taxed on the shareholder level. From a corporate housekeeping standpoint, C Corporations have more formalities than a LLC and S Corporation, and are more expensive to maintain.

Most small to midsize business clients that I work with end up taking the S-Corp or LLC route.

Corporate Entity Selection – Final Thoughts

Selecting the appropriate entity is an important part of beginning any new business venture. You need to carefully consider the pros and cons of the legal, tax, and operational aspects of each business entity when deciding. You will want to work closely with both your lawyer and CPA to determine the best fit for your business.

If you have any questions regarding establishing a business entity in Florida, please feel free to contact me. It would be my pleasure to discuss your business and your needs in determining the appropriate entity.