Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is Judicial Merit Retention?

Among the many important decisions Florida voters will face in November will be a vote on Judicial Merit Retention. Justices and appellate court judges appear on Florida ballots after 6-year terms. Voters are tasked with the decision of whether or not to retain these judges and Justices. This year, there will be three Supreme Court Justices and 15 appellate court judges on Florida's ballots for merit retention vote. However, there are no appellate judges on the ballot for the 5th District Court of Appeals, which is the district where Citrus and Marion counties are located.

Many voters do not know any of the Justices and judges listed on the ballots. We encourage you to get informed on the candidates and their qualifications, and to understand the process of judicial merit retention. You can find more information on the Florida Bar's website, The Vote's in Your Court, or by watching this short video with an introduction from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The video is less than ten minutes long and is full of information about how the merit retention system works and how you can make an informed decision in November.

While most citizens don't often consider how our judges and Justices come to be in office, and most don't have regular interactions with them, it is important for every Florida citizen to understand the process involved in electing those individuals tasked with safeguarding justice for our people.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Man Arrested for Carrying Machete at Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention taking place in Tampa has seen at least one arrest so far. Jason Wilson, a 31 year old Tallahassee man was arrested yesterday for carrying a machete strapped to his leg. When told to stop, Wilson reportedly resisted arrest. He was taken to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

For more, see the full story here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

6 Steps to Finding the Best Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer is often one of the most critical choices you can make in some of the most difficult situations in your life. Whether you're going through a divorce, buying a piece of property, selling a business, or you've been injured in a motor vehicle accident, having the right lawyer to represent your interests is essential in ensuring you will have the best possible outcome in your case. Hiring a lawyer is also a big investment. Before you spend your hard-earned money on legal representation, you want to make sure you are getting what you're paying for. Here are 6 steps you can take to make sure you have the best lawyer possible to represent you in your case.  

1. Identify your legal issue

Not every law firm handles every type of case. You want to make sure the lawyer you hire has experience and expertise in the kind of case you actually have. It won’t help you much if you’re lawyer has a lot of experience in corporate cases, but you’re getting a divorce.

2. Gather references and investigate credentials

It is very likely that someone you know has hired a lawyer at some point. Ask them about their experience and whether or not they would recommend that attorney and why. Personal references are a great way to start your search for the right lawyer, but it shouldn’t be your last step.

3. Do your homework

Look at the lawyer’s website. Does it look professional? Is it easy to use? Do they practice the type of law you’re looking for? Are any of the firm’s attorneys board certified (this means they are certified as experts by the Florida Bar)?

4. Make an appointment for a consultation

You can usually make a consultation appointment right over the phone. Note whether the person you’re talking to is courteous and helpful. In most cases, it shouldn’t take longer than 24 hours to receive a returned phone call.

5. Ask questions

During your initial consultation with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. A good lawyer should be both able and happy to answer questions like these: 
  • What is your experience in cases like mine?
  • How many cases have you handled in this area? 
  • How long do these types of cases usually take to resolve? 
  • How and how often will I be billed? 
  • Who will actually be handling my case? (Some lawyers who advertise are not actually the attorney that will be handling your case when you walk through the door. Make sure the attorney you meet with is the one who will be working on your case.) 
Listen carefully, take notes, and write down any information you receive. Make sure this lawyer is a member of your state bar association. Check for peer reviews and client feedback on law review websites like Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo.

6. Make sure you’re comfortable

How was your experience during your first visit to the attorney’s office? Were you treated well? Did you feel comfortable? Was the attorney professional? Did he or she put you at ease? Above all else, you should feel like you can trust your attorney to protect your interests. Finding someone that you feel comfortable with is essential to having a successful attorney-client relationship.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dangers of "Write your Own Will" Software

We have all seen the ads for websites and software that offer to help you write your own "simple will" for a low flat rate. A tough economy has pushed many to use these types of programs to draft their own important legal documents, rather than using an experienced legal professional. Consumer Reports recently published a report where they test 3 software products claiming to help you write your own will. What they found was that all of the three products tested had major issues, and that none are very likely to meet your individual needs. Some of the major areas of concern included:

  1. They had outdated information
  2. They don't allow for sufficient customization, and rarely refer to specific state estate law in any detail
  3. They were not flexible in certain areas, with some arbitrary age or time limits
  4. They were too flexible in other areas, allowing you to completely contradict your will after it's completion
  5. They left out many popular options for estate plans like special-needs trusts, pet trusts, or domestic partnerships
  6. They didn't address tax issues
The biggest concern for most seems to be that as a layman you can't be sure what is missing in the finished product; a scary proposition in such an important document. As the New York Times said in their article finding many of the same pitfalls, you "don't know what you don't know." So, while it may seem these types of programs are an inexpensive alternative to having a lawyer draft your estate planning documents, you should think twice before putting such an important aspect of your family's financial planning in the hands of these programs, leaving you to simply hope that the finished product covers all you wanted it to. 

Our office is happy to offer free estate planning consultations, where a trained and experienced estate planning attorney will sit with you to discuss your specific needs and ensure that you have an estate plan that does exactly what you want it to do. If you're considering drafting your own estate plan, or if you already have drafted an estate plan and you would like our attorneys to review it, please contact our office today and set up your consultation. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Citrus Springs Man Dies After Domestic Disturbance

A domestic disturbance on Sunday left a man dead and his stepson hospitalized with stab wounds. The Citrus County Sheriff's Office was called to a domestic disturbance at a Citrus Springs home just after 4pm on Sunday. When deputies arrived, they found 69 year old Harold Gene Brown deceased with multiple knife wounds. Michael Staton, Brown's 56 year old stepson had also suffered stab wounds, which required he be airlifted to Tampa General Hospital based on reports by the Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office reports that Brown's wife was also at the home, though investigators did not say who they believe to have stabbed whom. A homicide investigation is currently under way.

For a full report on the incident, see the Tampa Bay Times.

Attorney Adam Czaya Elected Secretary for Citrus County Bar Association

Associate Attorney Adam A. Czaya
         The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor, P.A. is proud to announce the election of our Associate Attorney, Adam A. Czaya, to the Secretary position for the Citrus County Bar Association. The Citrus County Bar Association is an organization for lawyers, judges, and members of the legal field in Citrus County which promotes attorney professionalism and the administration of justice. Active in Citrus County since 1969, the Citrus County Bar Association provides local legal professionals with opportunities for community involvement through scholarships, community outreach, and public awareness programs.
          The Association held elections at the end of June and will begin meetings for the upcoming year this month. Associate Attorney Steven D. Fichtman served as the Association's President for the past year, and will serve as Past President in an advisory role for the upcoming year. Attorney Adam Czaya is "looking forward to a great year for the C.C.B.A. and a lot of exciting changes and new opportunities for the club and it's members to become involved in the community." All the attorneys at The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor are continuously looking for ways to be more involved in their community here in Citrus County. For more information on how we get involved, visit our website. For more information on the Citrus County Bar Association, visit their blog or facebook page.