Practice Areas

Our practice is devoted to helping individuals and their families navigate many of the issues we all experience as we go through life. Whether it’s estate planning, caring for a child with special needs or an aging parent, starting a new business, or helping a person get through a divorce, our firm is committed to helping people achieve their objectives so they can move on with their lives and pursue their aspiration. And with over 25 years of experience, we will approach your situation with the sensitivity and insight you would expect from a professional acting on your behalf. Here is a list of some of our practice areas:

Family Law
Families are interesting groups. At times they can be a valuable source of comfort and support and at other times they can be fertile ground for much stress and conflict. Usually it’s the latter scenario when people come to us (that’s right, no one involves their attorney when panning their annual family reunion!) and it’s at these times when you want a lawyer who appreciates the nature of the conflict and the familial relationships involved and who will approach the conflict or task accordingly. Sometimes that requires an aggressive warrior, but at other times all that may be required is the sensibility of a peacemaker or trusted advisor to find common ground among disputing parties. So if you are involved in a family matter, whatever it may be – a divorce, an adoption or caring for an elderly parent – call us… we can help.

Elder Law
Face it, we are an aging society. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated current population of 43.1 million and the population age 85 and over is expected to grow from its current estimated figure of 5.5 million to 19 million by 2050. And we are also living a lot longer, though not necessarily healthier. Unlike other characteristics that separate us – like race, religion or nationality – “age” is common to us all – that’s right, we will all eventually become old (although interestingly no one sees themselves as old!). Seniors, of course, have issues that are unique to them including asset preservation in case they need long term care, Medicaid planning, assistance managing their affairs, and protecting them from the undue influence of others and self-neglect. And many of the laws relating to government benefits including Medicaid, for instance, have “look back” requirements extending as far back as five years so you really need to plan well in advance if your intent is to preserve these benefits. We have been handling elder law issues for over 25 years and have been involved in many of these types of cases. So if you are caring for an older adult or simply are concerned about their welfare – call us. . . we can help.

Note: If you are planning for someone with a disability and require a Special Needs Trust, you can have this done at your convenience and at a very reasonable fixed fee through our on-line legal service. We would encourage you to take a look. If, on the other hand, your estate plan is more complex and involves more than just setting up a Special Needs Trust, we can certainly help and in most cases quote you a fixed fee as well. Just call our office. Please keep in mind that if you try our on-line legal service and you find that will not work for you, don’t worry, any money you paid will be credited to you if you elect to retain us in the “traditional” manner. So don’t put off planning for someone with special needs – we make it pretty painless!

Guardianship
Devastated. That’s probably the best word to describe how someone feels when a loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, or experiences a sudden debilitating event such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury and is no longer able to manage his or her own affairs. Apart from the emotional stress, there are the issues relating to how that person’s financial, medical and legal affairs will be managed and the mechanism for doing so. When this happens, the only alternative you may have is to petition the court to become that person’s guardian. A guardianship may also be necessary in situations where the person has a developmental disability (and presumably was never competent) or serious mental illness that renders them unable and unfit to manage their own affairs. This is a complex area of law that is rapidly changing. Over the past 25 years, we have been involved in hundreds of guardianship cases and have experience in all facets of this area of law. So if a loved one you are caring for needs help managing their affairs or is vulnerable and at risk for being exploited – call us. . . we can help.
Note: If you are considering filing for guardianship, we would encourage you to access our on-line legal service since we offer this service for basic uncontested guardianship cases at a very reasonable fixed fee.

Estate Planning
When we think of Estate Planning, we tend to think of Wills and what will happen to our estate when we die. A Will, of course, is important for distributing your estate amongst your named heirs and beneficiaries, as well as for minimizing estate taxes and naming guardians and trustees for your minor children. Usually little, if any, attention is paid to what might happen if we become disabled and are no longer able to act for ourselves.

If the unthinkable does happen, the question of who will make decisions for us and what those decisions might be will become vitally important in terms of what our quality of life will be in the future. It is for this reason that a sound estate plan should take into account not only a properly prepared and well thought out Last Will and Testament, but also a Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will (Advance Medical Directive). Together, these three documents constitute an integral part of your overall estate plan. The attorneys at Serra Law Group have extensive experience preparing all three documents and are happy to work with you in making sure the right estate plan is in place according to your particular situation.

 

The security of your family begins with a solid estate plan, though surprisingly many people ignore this and leave their estates to chance. You’ll be surprised at how easy we have made the process. Beat the odds and call us…

Note: If you have a basic estate plan in mind and a moderate level of assets, you can have all of this done at your convenience and at a very reasonable fixed fee through our on-line legal service. We would encourage you to take a look. If, on the other hand, your estate plan is more complex or the value of your estate is substantial, we can certainly help and in most cases quote you a fixed fee as well. Just call our office. Please keep in mind that if you try our on-line legal service and you find that will not work for you, don’t worry, any money you paid will be credited to you if you elect to retain us in the “traditional” manner. So don’t put off having a new will done – we make it pretty painless!

Probate/Estate Administration
It is difficult to image a more emotionally difficult time than when a loved one passes. Naturally your immediate attention is on fulfilling the wishes of your loved one and making sure all funeral and burial arrangements are carried out as intended. However, at the same time, the person’s estate needs to be managed and settled in accordance with the terms of the person’s will (if they died testate) or according to state law if there is no will (i.e., if the person died intestate). This can be a challenging situation since you are dealing with high emotions and varying levels of expectations among family members. And, of course, there are state and federal reporting and filing requirements that need to be complied with in a timely manner. There may also be an issue as to the decedent’s mental capacity at the time they signed their will which may be grounds for challenging the validity of the will in court. This can be fertile ground for protracted and expensive litigation if you do not retain the right attorneys to represent you. We have been handing probate and estate administration matters for over 25 years (contested and uncontested) and have the experience to help you navigate this process in a way that separates the emotions from what needs to get done. And our fee structure is based on the value we bring to your case, not the size of the estate. So if you are an executor or administrator of an estate or if you have an interest in an estate and feel you need representation, call us. . . we can help.

Special Needs Trusts
There is a special place in heaven for people who care for a child with special needs! It is not an easy job and much of the work goes unnoticed and seemingly unappreciated by outsiders looking in. Yet there is something special and rewarding about helping someone in need who relies on you and your compassion to get them through the day. Part of the caregiver’s responsibility, of course, is to make sure their child receives all the government benefits to which their child is entitled, including SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Medicaid. These are essential benefits you do not want to jeopardize by failing to plan properly. Fortunately the law allows you to set up what is known as a Special Needs Trust that allows your child to receive the benefit of having access to assets while preserving crucial “means tested” government benefits. This is a dynamic area of law and many government benefits that were once available to all disabled individuals regardless of assets or income are now becoming “means tested” which makes this type of trust much more important to have in place. For more than 25 years, we have been working with special needs children and their families helping them maximize and preserve their entitlement to government benefits. So if you are caring for a child with special needs and considering setting up a special needs trust – call us… we can help. And by the way, thank you for all you do!

Small/Family Business
Small and family businesses are the backbone of this country and the source of new products and innovations. Investors and banks will not even look at a new concept or service unless it has been proven by a start-up business. And contrary to what most people think, just because you own a small business does not mean you make a lot of money. Owning your own business is challenging and hard work. In a word it requires GRIT. On the other hand, prudent business people know the importance of making sure they are in compliance with state and federal law and that they are organized in such a way that minimizes personal liability and exposure. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including, for instance, establishing a Corporation, S-Corporation, Partnership or Limited Liability Company. What works best in any given situation will depend on the objectives of the business owner, but in the end you want a trusted advisor who can guide you appropriately at a reasonable fee. So if you are considering starting your own business or if you are already in business and would like to establish a relationship with an attorney who understands and appreciates your concerns as a small or family business owner, call us… we can help

Estate Administration & Probate
It is difficult to imagine a more emotionally difficult time than when a loved one passes. Naturally your immediate attention is on fulfilling the wishes of your loved one and making sure all funeral and burial arrangements are carried out as intended. However, at the same time, the person’s estate needs to be managed and settled in accordance with the terms of the person’s will (if they died testate) or according to state law if there is no will (i.e., if the person died intestate). This can be a challenging situation since you are dealing with high emotions and varying levels of expectations among family members. And, of course, there are state and federal reporting and filing requirements that need to be complied with in a timely manner. There may also be an issue as to the decedent’s mental capacity at the time they signed their will which may be grounds for challenging the validity of the will in court. This can be fertile ground for protracted and expensive litigation if you do not retain the right attorneys to represent you. We have been handing probate and estate administration matters for over 25 years (contested and uncontested) and have the experience to help you navigate this process in a way that separates the emotions from what needs to get done. And our fee structure is based on the value we bring to your case, not the size of the estate. So if you are an executor or administrator of an estate or if you have an interest in an estate and feel you need representation, call us. . . we can help. 

Note: If you are planning for someone with a disability and require a Special Needs Trust, you can have this done at your convenience and at a very reasonable fixed fee through our on-line legal service. We would encourage you to take a look. If, on the other hand, your estate plan is more complex and involves more than just setting up a Special Needs Trust, we can certainly help and in most cases quote you a fixed fee as well. Just call our office. Please keep in mind that if you try our on-line legal service and you find that will not work for you, don’t worry, any money you paid will be credited to you if you elect to retain us in the “traditional” manner. So don’t put off planning for someone with special needs – we make it pretty painless!

Mediation
Here’s an astounding statistic: better than 95% of all lawsuits settle before they go to trial. Most people find that hard to believe, but it is true. If this is true and it is likely your case will settle without a trial, wouldn’t it make sense to try and arrive at a settlement sooner than later? In other words, why spend all the time and money litigating an issue with multiple lawyers all charging hourly fees when ultimately you will be asked to compromise and agree on a settlement that may not be exactly what you want but is satisfactory to all parties. Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that utilizes a neutral third party to assist the parties in arriving at a settlement. You are not required to have a lawyer in order to use mediation and the process is voluntary and non-binding, unless you are successful in reaching a settlement at which point a formal written agreement can be drawn up. Mediation can be used in all civil cases, though it is especially useful in family related cases such as divorce, estate disputes and conflict over how best to care for an elderly or disabled family member where you have on-going relationships and a compelling need to keep matters private. So if you find yourself in a situation where a conflict needs to be resolved, whether you are already in litigation or not, call us to discuss whether mediation may be an option for you. You may end up saving yourself a good deal of money, not to mention the peace of mind you will have knowing your matter is resolved and you can move on with your life.

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