Attorney Elizabeth Devolder says that, these days, she’s seeing a lot of families who have suffered through the pandemic — and even the stress of having to prepare for Hurricane Ian — and are thinking about what would happen if they or someone they love were to pass away or become incapacitated.
The Law Office of Elizabeth Devolder, which Devolder launched in January 2021, is ready to help. The boutique firm is located in the Tampa Palms Professional Center, just off the Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. exit of I-75 in Tampa Palms.
Devolder earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) law degree at the Tampa campus of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Riverview in 2016, after a successful career in advertising and sales management. She had previously earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Corporate Communications from the College of Charleston, SC, in 1997. For five years, Elizabeth worked jointly with her ex-husband Bryan Devolder at their Devolder Law Firm.
Associate attorney Rachael Alexander was previously a case manager, working closely with Elizabeth while going to law school and helping her found the new firm.
In her new firm, Devolder — with support from Rachael and a growing staff, including a legal assistant and case manager — continues to handle estate planning and probate matters, and Devolder’s clients say she is both smart and compassionate.
When Christine Smith’s husband died four years ago, she says she hired Devolder to help her.
“It was really overwhelming,” Smith explains, “but she asked me things gently and slowly and spent so much time with me at one of the worst times of my life.”
Smith says Devolder’s compassion is only half of the reason she is so pleased with her experience with the firm.
“She’s also probably the smartest person I’ve ever met in real life,” says Christine Smith. “She’s really sharp.”
After working out her own estate plan, Smith brought her young adult son in, too, to set up documents that would allow her to make medical decisions for him if he were to ever become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Devolder recommends a number of documents — such as a Power of Attorney and others that may apply to your unique situation — for everyone, so that someone you choose has the authority to care for you if something unexpected happens.
Christine then introduced her 91-year-old father to Elizabeth, who handled his documents, as well. “We’re multigenerational clients,” she says.
Devolder says she helps many families like Christine’s, who are experiencing the crunch of what she calls the “sandwich generation,” where children are becoming adults but still need a lot of support from their parents, while their older parents also are becoming increasingly needy.
“You have a lot of people depending on you,” Devolder says.
Another multigenerational client is JoAnne Tucker, a Hunter’s Green resident who first hired Devolder to help her handle her brother’s estate when he began showing signs of dementia and ultimately passed away.
“The entire process can be so confusing,” Tucker says. “But, sitting down with Elizabeth was very comfortable. She and Rachael always answered all of my questions — no matter how many times I asked — and helped me to be confident that I had all of the information I needed and knew exactly what to do next.”
Later, Tucker went back to Devolder to prepare her own documents. Then, her mother and sister worked with Elizabeth, as well.
Devolder says you shouldn’t do what you heard your neighbor did, or take a friend’s generic advice.
“My job is to take what I know about the law and apply it to a specific set of facts,” Devolder explains, “because the documents you might need depends upon the makeup of your family — such as how many kids you have, if your family is blended, if there is conflict in the family, and the makeup of your assets.”
Devolder says that the entire Baby Boomer generation will be age 65 by 2030, and that 75 percent of people over age 65 will need some type of long-term care. She says she can help you plan for that care to help your family avoid spending too much of its resources on that care.
While many people don’t want to think about the possible need for long-term care — which is required when someone needs help bathing, feeding, dressing or going to the bathroom — Devolder says that now is the time to start planning for it.
“When it was time for your kids to go to college, you didn’t first start looking at colleges the week before they were supposed to start classes,” she says. “The time to plan for that is well in advance. It’s the same with long-term care.”
The Legacy Studio
Devolder’s desire to help families goes beyond just preserving their financial assets and planning for the future. She says she has a passion to help people protect their entire respective legacies, including their memories.
To that end, she is opening up a second business located inside the law office that will allow families to preserve their older generation’s most precious recollections.
She says the idea came to her when a client told her he thought he knew the stories his grandmother told, but after she passed away, they were lost. Then, the client’s mother also passed away, and he realized her stories were lost, as well. He told Elizabeth he wanted to write his own stories down for future generations, so that those precious memories would be preserved.
The idea of preserving people’s memories resonated with Devolder, but she realized that technology allows us to do much better than just writing things down.
“How you tell the story is part of the story,” she says, adding that video is the ideal medium for preserving these legacies. So, she created The Legacy Studio to provide that opportunity for not only her legal clients, but for anyone who wants to preserve their precious memories.
She says her clients have welcomed the idea and that the studio website will be up and running soon at www.LeaveYourLegacyStudio.com, although Devolder says she doesn’t yet have a scheduled grand opening date.
She is hoping The Legacy Studio will bring families together, and allow grandparents and parents to leave their stories as a legacy for their children.
The Law Office of Elizabeth Devolder is located at 5383 Primrose Lake Cir., Suite C, in the Tampa Palms Professional Center. It is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m. For more info or to make an appointment, call (813) 319-4550, or visit ElizabethDevolder.com.
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