Nicola J. Melby, Certified as an Elder Law Specialist by the Florida Bar & The National Elder Law Foundation, McCarthy Summers Bobko Wood Norman Bass & Melby, P.A., Stuart, FL
Hi Nikki, Can you give us a brief introduction?
I’ve been helping families on the Treasure Coast with their elder care and retirement planning needs for more than twenty years. Since Elder law only became a distinct area of practice within the Florida Bar in 1991, the fact that I started practicing in 1994, means I essentially began at the beginning. It’s what really sets me apart. Over that long period, I have built and developed solid relationships with other Elder Care professionals. As a result, if I cannot fix the problem myself, I usually know just who to call – be that here on the Treasure Coast or within the State of Florida or even nationally – since I am active both in the Florida Bar and currently serve on the Board of Directors for the National Elder Law Foundation, the only national certifying organization recognized by the American Bar Association for Elder Law Specialists.
When and why did you move to the Treasure Coast?
I moved to the Treasure Coast after I graduated from Stetson Law School in 1992. Upon graduation, I worked as an appellate law clerk for Judge Gary Farmer of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach and then entered private practice after leaving the Court in 1994. After a few years of private practice on my own, I joined my current firm as a partner in 1997. Although I go back and forth between Stuart and Brevard, North Carolina (my husband loves the mountains), I truly love Stuart and am happy to live in this beautiful community.
Can you tell us about your family?
I have been married for over 20 years. My husband and I have raised our 19 year old daughter, who is a freshman at FSU (go Noles!), and two wonderful godchildren, one who is a student at AB Technology in Asheville and the other is finishing up at Indian River State College here in Stuart and then heading to Western Carolina University in Sylva, NC. And if that isn’t enough, I have two beautiful grown step-daughters who add to the fullness of my life. I am very fortunate with my supportive and loving family.
Can you tell a short story about your professional philosophy and how that has helped people?
Years ago a wonderful Elder Law Attorney named Jerry Solkoff (he died a few years ago now) was my mentor. He told me “Nikki, you’ll do well by doing good”. That simple direction became my guiding star over all of the years of my career. All actions begin and end with the one thought of “how can I help”. As a result, peace of mind is probably the most important gift I have given to many clients with no further effort than by treating my clients the way I would want to be treated – which means I do my very best for my clients. And without any real business development plan, my practice has grown and is well known and respected. Today, was an excellent example of what makes my practice so worthwhile. I arrived at the office to hear a voice message from a former client who said “it’s been one year since Mom died and I just wanted to thank you for all you did for her and for our family. We appreciate you.” What person doesn’t like knowing that they did a good job for someone and it was appreciated! In my practice area, lawyers are essentially social workers with the added legal skill set and we are very involved with helping solve a myriad of family problems – many of which are not always legal in nature. My clients might need a referral for a care manager, a financial planner or an assisted living community. I’ve been in the community for so long that my relationships are well established and I feel very confident that I am able to match my client’s specific needs to the person best suited to those needs. In that way, the client may not need a distinct legal document drafted, but my counsel is greatly appreciated and that feels really good.
What do you love about what you do?
I love helping people. My job generally lends itself to fixing a concrete problem and then going away. I feel a lot like Nanny McPhee. If you saw that movie, you know that she ultimately fixes the messed up family -- and then fades away when she is not needed anymore. Most of the time, I feel just like Nanny McPhee. And truth be told, that is an excellent way to feel!
Tell me about your team within the law firm of McCarthy Summers Bobko Wood Norman Bass & Melby, P.A.?
Our firm’s terrific lawyers have decades of combined experience. My individual Elder Law team within our firm is awesome. I know people probably say that all the time and in print it’s hard for the reader to register my sincerity, but I truly do have a terrific team to work with on a daily basis.
My associate Donna, who was a social worker for Hospice before becoming a lawyer, joined our team in 2014 and she has become a powerhouse handling guardianship cases for the firm. My legal assistant Diane first joined the firm with me in 1997 and she is most definitely my go to person – the one who constantly gets the direction of “drop that” and “do this instead” without ever getting ruffled – she is an amazing asset. Cheri, who joined me in 2001 is my Medicaid paralegal and as former supervisor for the Department of Children & Families, she is absolutely essential in making sure that our nursing home Medicaid clients are well attended. I am so fortunate for her help over so many years. And then there is Jennifer, who to my good fortune joined the firm in 2002. Jennifer combines a sharp intellect with superior organizational skills and a healthy dose of compassion. She is the certified paralegal who handles all of my probate and guardianship clients. Together, we are a team of “yes” people – people who truly want to help when a client presents to us a circumstance within our basket of expertise. If you have a question about our ability to help you in the areas of Estate Planning, Medicaid and Special Needs Trust Planning, Veteran’s Benefits, Probate and/or Guardianship, call me at 772-286-1700 or email me at [email protected]. If our team can help, we will be happy to do so!