Get to Know…Hillary Cunningham

In our latest blog post of the “Get to Know” series, we are featuring someone very near and dear to my heart. I know, I say that about everyone here, but Hillary just so happens to be my personal assistant and she is quite literally my right hand woman. I have never met someone so detail-oriented, so helpful and so dedicated to giving her best at work. It was fun for me to read a little more about someone I spend so much time with every day and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know our Hillary too. 

Ok so Hillary, I know you’re a transplant to Alabama; tell us a little about that. 

I was born and raised in New England. I only recently moved around and got to see lots of different parts of the country that were new to me, but I chose to settle down in Baldwin County in 2021. Moving here was a great decision and I’m still learning about the people and places that make this area so special.

What made you go into the legal field and what’s your specific area of law/job role?

I began working in law offices by way of being a substitute daily reporter for a company that reported all of the civil complaints in the state I lived in at the time. I used to read and summarize hundreds of complaints in the Superior Court clerk’s office. It was so fascinating to read the details of the lawsuits. Soon after, I got my first job in a law office assisting attorneys. I have assisted in all kinds of legal areas, but I have been in probate and estate planning for the past few years and I’m very happy with it.

What are some of your hobbies?

In my free time, I like to read, cook and enjoy time with my orange tabby cat, Butterscotch (“Butters” for short). Alternatively, I am honing my angling skills and I spend a lot of time bass fishing with my boyfriend (I’m the girl with the pink rod and reel!). 

What is the top item on your bucket list?

I want to vacation in Nantucket! I’m a big Elin Hilderbrand fan.

What’s your absolute favorite holiday and why?

Pretty much any holiday that involves lots of cooking and sharing meals with family and friends. I really love cooking the Italian food that I grew up with.

If you could describe Davis, Davis & Associates in three words, what would they be?

Supportive, motivating and high-quality. The attorneys and staff are very helpful and knowledgeable, with decades of combined experience. They are great at showing clients and staff how much they are appreciated!

Get to Know…Camille Ford

In our third “Get to Know” post of the series, we are finally featuring one of our attorneys! You really can’t know Camille without liking her. She has a laid back, warm presence about her, which she often uses to hide her intelligence and sharp wit. We are very lucky to have her at Davis, Davis & Associates spearheading our probate department. Let’s dive in and get to know, Camille Ford. 

Where are you from and what brought you to the Eastern Shore?

It’s an unpopular fact about me to y’all Eastern Shore folks, but other than my seven years of college/law school I’ve always been, and still am, a Mobilian.  I certainly enjoy the Eastern Shore though!   

Tell us about your hobbies and/or a little about your family life. 

I have 3 kids still at home so most of my free time involves their activities, but I do enjoy walking with friends when I can and having dinner dates with my husband on the rare occasion!

How would you describe your role with the firm and how long have you been working here? 

I mainly help families with probate after a loved one dies.  I also do some estate planning work as well as Guardianships and Conservatorships.  I’ve been at the firm since 2003.  

What motivates you?  

In my work life, just about all of my clients are grieving in some form or fashion. I really try to come up with the best plan to make the job of probate as efficient as possible to make a stressful time less so. 

Do you have a favorite song or music genre? 

80s on 8 

In your opinion, what makes Davis, Davis & Associates a unique work environment to you? 

It’s just nice people in a laid back atmosphere

Where did you get your education?

St. Paul’s High School, Mobile, AL

University of Virginia, BA in Economics 

University of Alabama, JD

And last, but not least, every interviewee has to tell us what their guilty pleasure is. 

I guess I’m boring but it’s a delicious meal, a good walk, and then on the couch watching Ted Lasso.  

Get to Know…Kim Silva

One of the things that struck me the most when I joined the firm was how kind and helpful all of the staff were and Kim Silva was no exception. From day one, she has helped “show me the ropes” and is always eager to offer her services if anyone needs assistance. I’ve yet to come to work and see her with anything but a bubbly, vibrant attitude and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know her and her family (even her daughter works here from time-to-time!). It’s my pleasure to share a little bit of Kim with our readers. 


Kim, tell us where you’re from and what brought you to the Eastern Shore?


I was born in Florida and grew up in South Carolina. After marrying the love of my life, his job took us from Charleston, South Carolina to California, to Texas, and then finally to the Eastern Shore. We’ve now lived here in Daphne for 14 years.  


What about hobbies/family life? What do you like to do for fun?


Faith and family are what define me. I have been married 24 years and have two beautiful daughters.  Children and youth ministries have been a huge part of my life.  I enjoy spending time with family, whether it is going to the beach, traveling to visit distant relatives or just grilling and hanging out by our pool. Fortunately, I inherited a green thumb from my mother and grandmother, so my flower gardens are a big passion project for me. I also enjoy sitting on my back porch after a long day and watching a variety of backyard birds with my husband.   


How long have you been with Davis, Davis & Associates and how would you define your role here?


I started in the legal field 34 years ago and have had many roles throughout my career.  Primarily, I’ve worked as a litigation paralegal and I absolutely love what I do.  I have worked at DDA for almost 11 years. Daily case management, preparing for and attending depositions, hearings and trials are a big part of what I do at DDA. I am fortunate and grateful to be able to interact with and form lasting relationships with our clients.


What motivates you?


Family motivates me! And helping others. Having been brought up in the church, I have been surrounded by faithful, loving and giving people. I have the desire and determination to pay that forward. 


Having worked in the legal field for so long, what would you say makes DDA “unique” or “special” to you?


DDA is not just a place of work; we are a team; we are family.  We have been through marriages, births, deaths, and retirements together.  Everyone genuinely cares for one another.  This firm is unlike any that I have worked for and my hopes will be to retire here (but I’m told that cannot happen anytime soon! Ha!) 


We keep the best question for last…what is your guilty pleasure?!


Aside from peanut M&Ms, I guess my guilty pleasure would be plant shopping. I won’t ever turn down an opportunity to go to a nursery or plant store. Even though my husband knows what he’s getting himself into, he still always asks if I want to tag along with him going to Lowe’s. 

Get to Know…Jaimie Mans

As much as I love writing about Estate Planning and Probate law, what I love even more are my
co-workers (honestly!). It’s a very unique culture at Davis, Davis & Associates, and one in which
I have not personally experienced in my professional life. Each member of our team is vital to
our success, in their own way, and I thought it would be a shame not to share a little bit of them
with our readers. So, without further ado, let’s get to know Jaimie Mans.

Jaimie, tell us, where are you from and what brought you to the Eastern Shore?
I was primarily raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  I was working in Birmingham after college when
my mom connected me with Richard.  After a brief zoom interview, I made my way down here.

What is your educational background?
Bachelor of Arts in English from Rollins College – Winter Park, FL

What are some of your hobbies? What do you for fun?
After swimming competitively for 17 years, I’ve transitioned to land workouts and started doing
CrossFit.  On weekends above 75 degrees, you can find me at the beach!  Also, when the
opportunity arises, I write freelance articles for Mobile Bay Magazine.

How would you describe your role with the firm and how long have you been working at DDA?
I work elbow-to-elbow with Richard.  I’ve been at DDA for just over a year and love absorbing
all of the information possible.

What would you say motivates you?
The possibility—and hope—of impacting the world in some way.  I also love the idea of
connecting with a broad variety of people.  It’s fulfilling to be part of the team that can change
someone’s life.

Tell us your favorite song or what music you’re into lately?
Right now, I listen to Indie Pop and Alternative R&B

What makes DDA unique/special to you?
The workplace environment is unlike anything I’ve experienced.  We care about one another; we do anything we can to help one another; we are a family.

Ok last question, what is your guilty pleasure?
It’s cliché, but chocolate is my kryptonite.

Moving Out of State? Time to Review Your Estate Plan

I know what you’re thinking, just the act of moving alone is a massive undertaking, so the thought of adding another item to your to-do list probably doesn’t sit well, but it can be critically important. Any time you move out of state, you simply must revisit your Estate Plan, and here’s why.

Generally, a properly drafted and executed Will written in your home state will be valid in your new place of residency however, certain terms and conditions within your Will (or Trust) may need to be changed due to your move. Let’s say, for instance, that you move to a community property state. That state will treat all of your property as belonging to you and your spouse equally. If you and your partner have specific views about how your assets should be distributed after the first of your passes, it’s very important to review and perhaps revise your estate plan in your new place of residency.

Also, you very well may need to consider changing the individuals you’ve named as your Executor(s). If you have named someone or multiple people in that role and they now live 500 miles away, it’s probably a good idea to put in place someone closer to your new home. Additionally, rules can vary from state to state in regards to Executors. For instance, if you move from Florida to New York, you cannot have a New Yorker as your Executor unless they’re related to you by blood or marriage.

Each state has its own laws and statutory forms when it comes to naming someone as your Power of Attorney. While some states accept out of state financial or health care Powers of Attorneys, others do not. Therefore, best practices would call for a careful review of these documents by a licensed, estate planning attorney in your new home state.

Estate Planning and the maintenance thereof is understandably something we all put off too often, but it is the most important thing one can do to protect their family, their estate, and their legacy. Let us take the guess work out of updating your estate plan and give your peace of mind that all of your affairs are in order.

To learn more about estate planning and planning when new residency is involved, contact Davis, Davis & Associates today to schedule a consultation.

The Heart of Estate Planning: Incapacity Planning

I can guarantee you that if I asked 10 people what the purpose or what the benefit of estate planning is, 9 out of those 10 would say something along the lines of “To make sure my things go where I want when I die” or “To take care of my family when I die.” While those answers are true, I believe the most important part of estate planning is the preparation of certain documents that actually affect you while you’re living. I call this “incapacity planning” and it should be a part of every good estate plan because, statistically speaking, we will all experience a period of incapacity (even if it’s short term) before we actually pass away. During that time of incapacity, we are often unable to handle our day to day affairs and that’s where incapacity planning comes into play.

So what documents should everyone have? First, you’ll need a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. This critical document allows you to choose an Agent (and backups) who, upon your incapacity, will be authorized to act on your behalf with regard to financial matters, such as banking, paying your mortgage, paying utilities, etc. My suggestion is to make the power broad enough that your agent can do virtually everything that you would do for yourself, financially speaking.

Second, you’ll need a Health Care Power of Attorney. Similar to a Financial Power of Attorney, the health care version allows you to name an Agent (and backups) to help make medical care decisions for you, in the even that you are unable to make or express your own wishes. Of course whomever you nominate for this role should ideally be someone that lives nearby, someone that you trust, and someone that is familiar with your medical concerns/wishes.

Third, you’ll need a Living Will (also called an Advanced Directive). In addition to naming health care agents in this document, a Living Will allows you to make declaration regarding medical care in the event that you are terminally ill, injured, or are permanently unconscious. While the questions are difficult to think about and answer, ultimately, you are doing it while you are of sound mind and have had time to carefully think about your decisions and so, if that situation presents itself, your family members will not have to worry or fight about making those decisions for you.

Without an incapacity plan in place, not only will your wishes not be known, but no one in your life (even a spouse or a child) will have the legal authority to act on your behalf. Their only option after you become incapacitated would be to seek out a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship from the Probate Court. This process almost always requires the use of a probate attorney, which can be costly, but it is a lengthy and often emotional endeavor.

To learn more about estate planning and planning for incapacity, contact Davis, Davis & Associates today to schedule a consultation.

U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Do you live in Baldwin County?

Are you struggling to get caught up on or pay future rent?

Baldwin County is launching the U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program to provide emergency rental assistance to residents who are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is funded through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 133). This relief package includes $25 billion for emergency rental assistance, of which $6.6 million has been allocated to the county of Baldwin to provide assistance within the 14 municipalities.

Both landlords and renters may apply. The program can provide assistance for past-due rent and forward rent payments for applicants.

Find Out More and Apply Here

State of Alabama Proclamation by the Governor: COVID-19

WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, I declared the existence of a state of public health emergency based on the appearance of the 2019 novel coronavirus know as COVID-19 in the State of Alabama;

WHEREAS that initial proclamation included provisions designed to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in mitigating the consequences of COVID-19;

Read full version (pdf)

Estate Planning in a Post-COVID-19 World

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted just about every area of our lives, and it has caused many people to rethink their priorities. A lot of people have contracted the virus or know someone who has become seriously ill or died from it, and this has forced a good number of individuals to confront their own mortality.

COVID-19 has reminded us that, no matter how old we are, no one is guaranteed another day on this planet. With this in mind, it is important to get our final affairs in order regardless of our age. Otherwise, it may be too late to protect our family in the event of a worst-case scenario.

Important Estate Planning Tools to Protect your Loved Ones

Everyone should have an estate plan. Period. Even if you think you have “no assets” or a “small estate”, there are several documents that are essential to ensuring that your affairs will be in order:

Last Will and Testament

Also known simply as a “will”, a Last Will and Testament is a foundational estate planning document that everyone needs. In the absence of will, your surviving family members could face a long and drawn out probate process that could take several months or longer to complete. Not having a will could also cause bitter legal disputes within families that may drag on for years, causing irreparable damage to valued family relationships.

With a will, all of your final wishes can be spelled out clearly, including who will receive your hard-earned assets and property, as well as who will become guardian over any minor children you may have. Without a will, your property is divided based on Alabama intestate laws, and the courts would be the ones to decide who receives custody of your children. Within your will, you will also have the opportunity to appoint an executor/personal representative, someone you can fully trust to carry out your directions. This helps ensure that your final affairs are predetermined, and that the probate process will go as smoothly as possible.

Advance Health Care Directive

If you were to become terminally ill or injured and were unresponsive or if you were to become permanently unconscious, it is very important to have an advance health care directive (aka “living will”) in place to inform your loved ones and treating medical professionals of which end-of-life treatments you want to have and which ones to forgo. This saves your family members from having to guess what you would want, which could again cause heated disputes as they try to make the correct decision and guess your wishes.

Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney

Along with an advance health care directive, you will want to appoint a healthcare power of attorney to help ensure that your medical treatment wishes are carried out. This should be a trusted family member or close friend who fully understands what your position is on various health procedures and treatments, as well as someone you can count on to follow your wishes regarding your health care.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

You will also need choose someone to manage your finances for you. Your financial power of attorney designee could be the same person as your healthcare power of attorney, or it could be someone else. The important thing is to appoint someone who you fully trust, and who is capable of making financial decisions and transactions on your behalf.


For those with more complex estate planning needs, there are various types of trusts that could be set up to help address them. One of the most common is a revocable living trust, which creates a separate entity where your assets can be held. These assets would be distributed directly to your designated beneficiaries upon your death, thus bypassing the need for probate. This makes the transfer of wealth a smoother process; and by avoiding probate, the details of your estate do not become part of the public court record.

These are some of the fundamental estate planning tools that most people should consider. There are several advanced tools and strategies, such as specialized trusts, life and long-term care insurance, business succession planning, and gifting strategies that can be combined or used separately to accomplish various estate planning goals.

Each person has a unique set of circumstances, so the right estate planning strategy will always depend on your specific needs. The best place to start is to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to discuss your situation.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning is not only for those who are aging and/or those who have significant assets, and COVID-19 has prompted many more of us to focus on the necessity to get our final affairs in order. If you are in Alabama, Davis & Fields is here to help.

Like everyone else, we are taking all the precautions and following all of the social distancing guidelines, and we are able to consult with you remotely via phone or video conference. But rest assured, we are fully operational, and we have the technology and resources to continue providing the strong legal guidance our clients have come to expect during our two decades plus in practice.

Message us online or call our Daphne, AL office today for a personalized consultation with a member of our legal team. We look forward to serving you!



The Benefits of Holding Rental Properties in an LLC

Are you in the short-term rental market? Do you own properties that you rent out for a few days or a week or two at a time? Airbnb and other popular rental websites have made it easier than ever for property owners to make extra cash renting their properties out on a short-term basis. But one thing most people don’t think enough about when they are looking to turn a profit on the short-term rental market is the potential for major liability exposure if something goes wrong.

“How bad can it be?”, you might ask. Well, how about paying out $11.6 million in damages after your tenant gets drunk and dives into a body of water you don’t even own?

This is exactly what just happened to Roy and Cindy Cheatwood, Louisiana residents who were renting out a condo they owned in Gulf Shores, Alabama on a short-term basis. The condo is located on West Lagoon Avenue, just a short walk from Little Lagoon.

In 2016, the Cheatwoods rented their condo to tourist Samuel Steib and a group of his friends. After drinking whiskey and beer for approximately 8 hours, Steib dove into Little Lagoon head-first, causing a spinal fracture and resulting in Steib becoming a quadriplegic.

Steib successfully argued that the Cheatwoods were indeed responsible for his drunkenness, because they apparently knew that Little Lagoon was shallow and not safe to dive into, but they failed to adequately warn their short-term tenants of this fact.

Protecting your Assets by Holding Rental Properties in an LLC

The Cheatwoods have just learned a very expensive lesson. It is not known what type of ownership structure they had with regards to their condo in Gulf Shores, but if they are like most people who are in the short-term rental market (or even the majority of those who own rental properties with long-term leases), the condo was probably owned by them personally.

This means the Cheatwoods are now on the hook for $11.6 million – minus the limits of their liability insurance, which is typically no more than $500,000, plus maybe an extra million or two if they had an umbrella insurance policy. This could very well mean financial insolvency – unless they had the foresight to set up a limited liability company (LLC) in which to hold their property.

An LLC is an inexpensive vehicle that can limit your personal liability exposure if you own rental properties. If your rental property is owned by an LLC, then only the assets within that LLC are at risk if someone files a lawsuit for something that goes wrong on your property.

So, if the Cheatwoods had their condo and no other assets in an LLC, then Mr. Steib’s damages would be limited to the net value of the condo (total market value minus any loans on the property). Which means in this case, having an LLC would have likely saved the Cheatwoods somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million.

Advantages of Creating LLCs for Rental Properties

As you can see, the “limited liability” aspect of an LLC is hugely beneficial to a rental property owner. You never know what kind of trouble your tenants or their guests will get into, and it is just plain smart to have this kind of protection in place.

You may think that the Little Lagoon lawsuit is an extreme example and that something like this will never happen to you, but in today’s litigious society, how farfetched is it really?

Here is a question – does your rental property have a balcony? Most condos do, and a lot of them are on the second or third floor or higher. If this is the case, what happens if your tenants are drinking on the balcony and someone falls off? Do you think they won’t find a way to blame you for that?

There are countless other scenarios like this which can cause major liability exposure. But if you have your rental property inside of an LLC, you gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing that there is a very hard limit to what someone can sue you for.

In addition to limited liability exposure, LLCs offer several other advantages to rental property owners:

  • Pass-through Taxation: An LLC has tax advantages over other types of entities that you might set up to limit the liability exposure with your rental property. For example, corporations are taxed directly on their profits, then the owners are taxed again when they receive income from the business. With LLCs, the company’s income passes through directly to the individual income tax return of the owner(s), meaning your tax liability exposure is also a limited.
  • Great for Multiple Owners: LLCs are a great option for rental properties that have more than one owner, or “member”. An operating agreement can be created that spells out the rights and responsibilities of each member, making the property easy to manage and limiting the liability exposure of each member.
  • Relatively Easy and Affordable to Setup: Compared to trusts and other business entities, limited liability companies are easier and less expensive to set up and maintain. There are some areas that require the assistance of an experienced attorney, particularly when it comes to transferring the title of the property to the LLC, creating an operating agreement for the company, and some other complicated issues. But all in all, LLCs are a very affordable option that can be looked at as “cheap liability insurance” for your rental property.
  • Can Set Up Separate LLCs for each Property you Own: If you own more than one rental property, it makes good sense to set up a separate LLC for each property. This way, only the one property is at risk in each separate LLC. And because limited liability companies are fairly easy to set up, it is not too much trouble to protect each of your rental properties with a separate LLC.

Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Business Attorney

As we have seen from the recent verdict in the Little Lagoon lawsuit, no rental property owner is safe from the potentially devastating financial impact of a frivolous lawsuit – if the property is in the individual owner’s name. By setting up a limited liability company, you can protect yourself from this danger while continuing to reap the benefits of earning passive income on your rentals. To ensure that your LLC is set up correctly, be sure to work with a knowledgeable Alabama business lawyer.

At Davis & Fields, we have two decades of experience helping clients in Alabama create LLCs and handle all other business legal matters. We work closely with our clients, putting our extensive experience to work to develop the most practical, effective, and cost-efficient legal solutions.

For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 251-621-1555. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Daphne, AL office in person at your convenience.