Death Record Form


Here is the form I use every time I order death certificates for Florida death: Death Record Form.
I download the form as needed (as they change the form from time to time). See this website for more information. Florida also has PDF forms for Birth, Marriage, and Divorce happening in Florida as well.


Property Tax Exemptions


All Florida counties provide Property Tax Savings Exemptions for Homestead, but they also offer these for recognized categories, like Window, Blind, Disabled, Service Connected Veterans, and more. There are requirements to provide verification documents that each county establishes.

Some cities offer these exemptions as well.


There are deadlines – to be filed with the Homestead Exemption — March 1st of the year eligible to apply – Example: the absolute deadline to LATE FILE for any 2017 exemption — if you miss the March 1 timely filing deadline — is September 18, 2017. State law (Sec. 196.011(8), Fla.


The details about the exemptions process can be found on each county’s Property Appraiser site.



Lake County —

Seminole County —

Volusia —

Orange —

Check it out – maybe you are paying too much property tax.


Tax Form URTS W-4


This year, we have been experiencing more pension providers, like DFAS, that are now requiring a yearly Election of Federal Tax withholding form to be filled out. This is the tax form URTS W-4.


Some of these pension providers/administrators are taking the position that if they do not receive the completed form, by early each year, their default is to start Federal Withholding from the pension’s check. This is a pain in the neck and somewhat redundant for folks who have been receiving their pension checks for 10, 20, even 30 years and do not need the Federal Withholding from their pension checks.
This is also pushing folks to set up online pension access, which many elderly folks don’t do or even understand.



What to Do When a Veteran Passes Away


Source: US Dept. of Veteran Affairs

The loss of a loved one is a difficult experience.


The VA has established a streamlined process for families, executors and legal representatives to follow to notify VA about the death of a Veteran.


Why should I notify the VA about the death of a Veteran?

  • Notifying VA limits the change for others to falsely use the Veteran’s identity
  • By updating the Veteran’s information, you will reduce the likelihood of VA continuing to send correspondence about VA benefits, services, and bills.
  • You are helping the VA maintain up-to-date records, which will enhance the agency’s efforts to better distribute services to the Veteran community.

Steps for notifying the VA

  1.  Step one is for the next-of-kin and/or legally authorized representative under State law
    to retrieve an official copy of the Veteran’s death certificate.
  2. Step two is to submit the death certificate to VA by:
    a. hand delivering or mailing a copy of the death certificate to the Office of Decedent
    Affairs at the VA medical facility where the Veteran was receiving healthcare
    benefits, or
    b. contacting the VA Health Resource Center at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) for additional

Going Down the Rabbit Hole



As a plenary guardian for the person and property, there is a lot to do. The question is how far to go? What is the possible net gain?
The cost of doing this is something to consider. The courts expect value for the time you spend (and time charged to the client). They also may expect you to look for unclaimed funds, but they do not want you to “waste” the ward’s time (or money) going down rabbit holes that have nothing in them.

But, how do you know if all the research and time will end up benefiting the client in the end?
We became the guardian for Mrs. T. in 2012. Her spouse had passed away in 2007.
Since her job was an admin in H.R., she was organized and a well-trained, experienced administrator, it would be reasonable to assume that she had filed for his life insurance claims years before, right?


Nope, not only that but for over those 5 years since his death, she had been continuing to have his life insurance premiums deducted from her federal pension, costing her thousands.


Because we did all the research, going back 5 years, we were able to file for his life insurance claim and get the reimbursement of all those premiums as well. Thousands of dollars gained…this time.


How Can I Leave Him in the Cooler?


As the ETG guardian of a recently widowed gal whose husband’s body had not yet been cremated (4+ weeks), I felt very pressured to authorize and pay for his cremation (with her funds). However, I had some recollection that our judge had issues with that.


We were at a hearing (on another issue) and inquired of the court’s perspective on this subject. The judge said that he was not aware of any law that allowed a guardian to use the assets of the surviving spouse to pay for the deceased spouse’s final arrangements. Furthermore, if the guardian did work on those types of arrangements that they could get in hot water with the courts for charging the “ward” billing time or expense for those activities that did not benefit the ward. Those were his (the deceased spouse’s) future estate issues.


The judge understood the dilemma and instructed us to “find” and bring him a way that this could be done within the limits of the guardianship laws. In our research, we found 744.397 which was very helpful for this client (the judge signed the order right away). It was also very helpful for another client (that had a parent in this similar situation). Remember, when all else fails, read 744!:)


Tip: Be careful what you sign for the ward – lately, service provider’s contracts are getting much more “legal” and have many provisions showing up that are risky (to the ward and the guardian) if signed. From transportation companies’ service agreements, to ALF fall risk forms, to SNF elopement policies, to Personally Responsible Clauses, if at all possible, these contracts need to be reviewed by your counsel (sometimes a timing issue) in advance of your signature so that you are not signing something that could create future issues for you or the ward. Be especially aware of Arbitration wording – which could give up the civil right of you (for the ward) to initiate a lawsuit.



Face Sheet 2.0



If you have been reading our newsletter or social media stuff for a while, you have probably seen the issues with face sheets come up. So if I sound like a broken record, I am. We make it our practice to get a “PAPER” copy of a client’s face sheet – from EVERYWHERE, OFTEN — from hospices, group homes, hospitals, clinics, SNF, ALF, AFCH, Day Programs, physician offices, insurance companies, Pension companies…You name it.



The Face Sheet may have another name — Client Profile, Data Sheet, Demographics Record…Tomato – TOMAAATOE – Potato – POTAAATO. All the same concept — the problem is that what the computer shows on the screen, what you think is on that face sheet and what belongs on that face sheet, are OFTEN not the same as what is actually on it.



Case in point – we recently were with a guardianship client at an imaging center of a hospital. I, as her plenary Guardian, signed all the consent screens (screens – which by the way, I also require them to print ANY document that I sign electronically, but I digress). I also went over, verbally, the accuracy of the face sheet. At the end, I asked for a copy of that face sheet – and low and behold guess what is wrong? The face sheet – reading the face sheet in the waiting room, we see that I have (personally) been put on the field as Personally Reasonable for the bills of this client – NOPE, be VERY careful, not to become PERSONALLY responsible for any client’s bills.


So, big reminder: get the face sheet — printed — and read them. More often than not, there will be errors or outdated information that needs to be collected.



2017 Disabilities Training Conference

Each year the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program holds a conference for child welfare attorneys, child welfare professionals, and judges who represent and work with dependent children with disabilities. This popular conference is known for its advanced material and workshops.  The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program invites you to join fellow child welfare professionals at the 2017 Disabilities Training Conference: Making the Impossible Possible to be held May 4-5, 2017 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida. The conference will:
  • Advance attorney advocacy and courtroom skills to ensure the best outcomes for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Promote understanding of the intricacies of government agency processes and how they must be coordinated to improve outcomes for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Impart advanced advocacy strategies for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Develop connections among participants and agencies to better determine appropriate resources for dependent children with disabilities.

To Register for the conference: click here.


What Makes a Dog a Legal Companion or Emotional Support Dog?


Image Source: swong95765

If you were to go online and look for certification for your dog as a companion or emotional support animal you would find a number of websites that offer certificates, patches, ID tags, etc. for a fee, but is it worth spending $69.95 to get your dog certified?  Many of these websites lead you to believe that with their certification, you will be able to take your dog anywhere, including airplanes and government buildings, but let’s look at the facts.


By federal regulation, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  These tasks need to be specific to the individual’s disability; such as a guide dog for a visually impaired individual or a medical alert dog for someone with seizures or diabetes.  Service dogs do not have to be obtained through a service dog organization and registration of a service dog is not mandated by federal law.  The law does not require a service dog to wear any identifying vest or ID.  The law does specifically exclude dogs whose sole function is to provide emotional support.  State laws may allow for a broader definition; both in the type of animals that qualify and the service they offer, so you may want to refer to your state’s statute for clarification.


When a service dog is in public, a business owner has the right to ask the disabled individual (or someone accompanying them) what tasks the service dog performs.  It is very important that the individual is able to name tasks that relate to their disability or the business owner can deny access to the service animal.  A business cannot deny access due to fear of dogs or allergies.  This includes work and school.


When a service dog is in public they must be under the control of their handler at all times.  It is preferred that a service animal have a harness, leash or tether but they can be loose if using these items limits the animals ability to safely and effectively perform the tasks it has been trained to do.  In that case the handler must be able to maintain control of the animal through verbal commands and/or gestures.  If a service animal is considered out of control, a business has the right to ask that the animal be removed from the premises; but the individual has to be allowed to finish their business (without the presence of the service animal).


So how can an emotional support or companion dog be a legal service animal with all the protections that come with the title?  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, one acceptable category of service dog is a psychiatric service dog.  By definition a psychiatric service dog aids individuals with cognitive, psychiatric, or neurological disabilities.  This opens the door for someone with PTSD or another severe emotional condition to qualify, if their physician can document an emotional condition that rises to the standard of a psychiatric diagnosis or the condition effects cognitive functioning.


Despite the exclusion of emotional support dogs in public, some airlines will allow an emotional support animal to fly with an individual if their primary care physician provides appropriate documentation.


Warning:  Some folks just put a vest on a dog and fake it. That may work, or it may fail.  There have been recent discussion with law makers for this to be a punishable offense.


Sources:;; and Florida Statutes 413.08

There is Something New Every Day

birthday candlesAs a Guardian, there truly is something new every day…

This week I was contacted by a dialysis center that had an intellectually challenged 18-year-old young man who has been on their transplant list for years.

This young man had just turned 18, and now the transplant team’s admin folks require that he have a guardian to stay on the transplant list, because they feel he does not have capacity to consent.

So the question is which type of guardianship is right for him?

A 744 — adult guardianship or 393 – Guardian Advocate for a developmentally-disabled guy?

I have a conference call with the transplant teams’ admin folks scheduled, so we’ll see where this goes.

Like I said – there really is something new every day. You just can’t make this stuff up.