Our Practice Areas

Full-Service Representation

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, our experienced attorneys provide personalized law services to our clients, by focusing on their individual needs and distinct business identities.

Business Law

The attorneys at Fleet, Smith & Freeman — Helping Florida’s businesses grow and thrive for more than 60 combined years.

Business Law Attorneys Serving Northwest Florida — from Pensacola to Panama City and cities and towns in between

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we provide legal guidance and counsel to large, midsized and startup companies throughout the Florida Panhandle.

We have a tax attorney on staff. Under his guidance, our firm advises businesses on the best methods to reduce their tax liabilities, and advises corporations regarding the tax implications of everyday business decisions. We also help entrepreneurs understand the tax implications when choosing an entity form for their company and advise business owners on the tax implications during the sale or dissolution of their business.

For more than 60 combined years, our Fort Walton Beach attorneys have helped entrepreneurs form and grow their businesses, provided legal advice on the day-to-day activities of existing businesses and helped established corporations take advantage of new business opportunities. Our firm provides full-service business law advice; our services include everything from business formation, to drafting and reviewing contracts and assisting with mergers, acquisitions, sales and dissolution.

Helping Florida’s Businesses Come To Life

Starting a business is an exciting time. Visions begin to come to life, opportunities abound and entrepreneurs begin to see their dreams take shape. At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we are as excited about your new business as you are.

Our attorneys provide entrepreneurs with the benefit of hindsight. We’ve seen what works and what does not. Together, we can help you avoid common pitfalls, reduce your personal liability and structure your startups in a way that lays the foundation for future growth and success.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we assist clients with every aspect of business formation, including:

  • Advising on entity structure, whether that be a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or sole proprietorship
  • Drafting articles of incorporation, bylaws, and partnership and shareholder agreements
  • Advising on methods to limit personal liability
  • Negotiating and drafting employment and vendor contracts
  • Ensuring government and regulatory compliance
  • Tax implications
  • Purchase and sale of business interests
  • Our lawyers also represent clients during business litigation.

Providing competent solutions to complicated issues

Civil litigation is the result of a legal dispute between two or more parties that seek monetary compensation for damages or services not rendered. A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a litigator or trial lawyer. A litigator will often attempt to settle the matter through arbitration and mediation before going to court, but if an agreement cannot be met, the case will go to court.

Civil Litigation involves legal disputes that are not criminal in nature. Some common examples of civil litigation cases are landlord/tenant disputes, marital conflicts, and contract disputes.

Civil Litigation

Providing experiences and competent representation in litigation cases.

Estate Planning

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we have the proven and trusted experience in helping generations of Floridians protect their families and their properties.

Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Destin, Crestview And The Florida Panhandle

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we believe in tailoring estate plans to meet the unique needs of each client. That is why we don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to estate planning. Instead, each estate plan we draft is just as unique as you are!

Emerald Coast estate planning lawyer Whitney L. Smith, Esq. handles this deeply important work at our firm.

Before drafting an estate plan, Whitney thoroughly evaluates our clients’ financial positions and their planning goals. She can best draft documents that protect clients’ families, preserve family legacies and transfer wealth to the next generation once we understand the types of assets involved and why our clients are developing estate planning documents. Whitney aims to do this in the most tax-efficient manner possible.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we draft everything from simple wills to sophisticated estate plans. We have a tax attorney on staff. Under his guidance, our firm builds tax-savings mechanisms into our estate plans. Such tax planning reduces our clients’ income taxes and shields our clients’ assets from federal estate and gift taxes. Planning this way can help preserve family legacies for the next generation.

Absolutely everyone can benefit from a simple estate plan. Wills allow individuals to choose how their property is to be divided upon their death. As a result, this planning ensures family heirlooms are passed to the appropriate family members and streamlines the probate process. Additionally, estate plans enable parents to name trusted family members or friends as guardians to care for minor children. Parents can also create trusts and designate trustees to hold and manage money for their children’s benefit.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we can draft the simplest or the most sophisticated estate plans. We also help clients protect aging or incapacitated family members through guardianships and conservatorships. We especially value helping clients navigate the probate administration process as efficiently as possible.

Guardianship Law

Helping protect your loved ones. Attorneys H. Bart Fleet and Whitney L. Smith, Esq. can assist you with all your legal needs.

Fleet, Smith & Freeman, have been helping family members throughout the Florida Panhandle protect their loved ones through guardianships and conservatorships for more than 60 combined years.

When individuals become disabled or elderly, and are no longer able to manage their own financial affairs or care for themselves, it may be necessary for a trusted friend or family member to step in. When parents pass away, it also may be necessary to establish guardianships over minor children. This is especially true for individuals who do not have estate plans that name powers of attorney or health care agents, and that do not name guardians to care for minor children.

In Florida, obtaining guardianships enables caring family members to care for their disabled, incapacitated or elderly loved ones or minor children. Establishing a guardianship does not strip an individual of his or her rights, instead it allows caring friends and family members to safeguard their loved ones’ assets, ensure finances are properly managed and that they are well cared for.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we help clients obtain guardianships over the elderly, disabled and children they love. Our lawyers represent clients during the entire process, from the initial court petition, to proving incapacity, and the final creation of the guardian-ward relationship.

Destin Guardianships Attorneys Serving Crestview, Okaloosa County And The Florida Panhandle

As a guardian, you will have the power to manage your ward’s financial affairs and make health care and general lifestyle decisions on his or her behalf. However, with this power comes many duties; failure to meet your responsibilities can expose you to legal liability.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we help guardians manage their responsibilities and perform their duties in accordance with legal requirements. Our attorneys assist with managing and investing money, keeping exact financial records, creating annual accountings and paying all applicable taxes.

We are among the most trusted firms in the Florida Panhandle

Client satisfaction is our top priority. Contact us today for a consultation.

Representing Personal Representatives And Trustees During Will And Trust Disputes

During probate administration or the administration of a trust, disputes can erupt. Unfortunately, these disputes are commonly between family members.

Located near Fort Walton Beach, Fleet, Smith & Freeman, represents beneficiaries of wills and trusts, personal representatives and trustees throughout the Florida Panhandle during probate and trust litigation and will contest disputes. Our lawyers thoroughly examine the circumstances giving rise to the dispute to develop strategic legal responses that help clients resolve their disputes in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we help clients contest the validity of wills and hold trustees responsible for their wrongful behavior.

Every move a trustee makes must be done so with the purpose of protecting and advancing the beneficiaries’ best interests. Unfortunately, sometimes trustees, either knowingly or mistakenly, do not live up to these duties. In these cases, we help beneficiaries enforce their legal rights, seek reimbursement for bad investment decisions, and petition the court to appoint a new trustee.

Wills are meant to represent the deceased’s final wishes and courts take direction regarding property division and monetary distributions seriously. However, beneficiaries and other interested parties may contest the validity of the will in an attempt to change the way property is distributed.

Litigation is often expensive and time-consuming. If we can resolve your dispute out of court — through negotiation, mediation or settlement — we will. However, if a courtroom battle is necessary, we will be the strong courtroom advocates you need to protect your rights and your financial interests.

Personal representatives and trustees have many responsibilities. As a trustee, you must manage the trust assets, invest trust money and make trust distributions for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. You must also treat all beneficiaries impartially during your dealings. Failure to live up to these responsibilities is a breach of duty, and you may be held personally liable.

If you have been accused of breaching your duties as a trustee or personal representative, you need smart, experienced attorneys working on your side. At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we help personal representatives and trustees defend against claims of wrongdoing, and protect themselves against financial and legal liability.

Probate Law

We represent beneficiaries of wills and trusts, personal representatives and trustees throughout the Florida Panhandle, with Whitney L. Smith handling this important work for our firm.

Real Estate Law

Facilitating The Purchase And Sale Of Florida Real Estate

If it involves real estate, we handle it.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, our Fort Walton Beach firm provides full-service legal representation during real estate transactions and property disputes. Our real estate attorneys have more than 60 combined years of experience helping individuals and businesses throughout the Florida Panhandle buy and sell property and resolve disputes involving real estate.

P. Michelle Freeman directs ours Real Estate Law department at Fleet, Smith & Freeman.

Facilitating The Purchase And Sale Of Florida Real Estate

Transactions involving real estate are some of the largest financial commitments individuals and businesses engage in. There are many moving pieces during the purchase or sale of property. Failure to adequately investigate every aspect of a real estate transaction can leave buyers and sellers with huge financial loss.

At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, we thoroughly evaluate every aspect of our clients’ proposed real estate transactions before the contract is signed. Our lawyers investigate title to ensure it is clear and work to discharge any mortgages or encumbrances on the property. We review and draft financing agreements and profit-sharing contracts and ownership interests to make sure our clients fully understand their rights and responsibilities under proposed contracts.

Our attorneys also assist commercial developers. Before purchasing land, zoning regulations must be understood, restrictions addressed and any necessary variances obtained.

Confident Handling Of Real Estate Closings

Our firm is in a unique position when it comes to handling real estate closings. Since we have an attorney on staff who can review all of the documents, you can get both your real estate closing and the in-house counsel you need. We have licensed title agents real estate attorneys who work collaboratively to complete this work for our clients.

If we complete a title search and discover an issue that needs to be cleared, (for example, if someone has passed away and still has his or her name on a title), we can do all of the probate work here, too, as well as issue the new title.

We pride ourselves on offering these services so you do not have to go to multiple places. We can handle it all for:

  • 1031 exchanges
  • Construction loan closings
  • Buyers
  • Sellers
  • Commercial real estate

Real estate transactions are serious financial commitments. Disputes involving real estate often involve large sums of money and high stakes. At Fleet, Smith & Freeman, our real estate attorneys represent individuals and businesses engaged in residential and commercial real estate litigation.

Our attorneys have experience representing clients involved in a wide range of real estate-related disputes, including:

  • Financing disputes
  • Investment disputes
  • Disputes with real estate brokers
  • Disputes regarding the purchase and sale of real property
  • Property management disputes
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Zoning disputes
  • Actions to quiet title
  • Easement, access, right-of-way disputes and boundary line disputes