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Javier Centonzio

Javier A. Centonzio, Esq.

I didn’t take the typical path to becoming an attorney. My mom and I moved to the United States from Puerto Rico when I was a very young child, and we ended up in Kansas City where I grew up. After leaving high school in the tenth grade to attend Job Corps, I earned my GED and returned to Kansas City, where I joined the Marine Corps. After finishing my enlistment in the Marine Corps, I returned to Kansas City and began working at the Union Pacific Railroad. However, I missed being in uniform, so I joined the Kansas Army National Guard, where I would have an experience that would change the course of my life. While deployed to Iraq in 2006, my good friend (and fellow Marine) Sgt. Jessie Davila was killed by a roadside bomb. His sacrifice inspired me to pursue my childhood goal of becoming an attorney and continuing to serve others through the law.

Veterans Advocate

After Jessie’s death, I knew I wanted to serve others, but I wasn’t sure how just yet. I found my calling to become an advocate for my fellow veterans while attending college at Park University. My own experience with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the experiences of my friends who I served with left me very dissatisfied and frustrated, so I decided that I had to learn how to fight for veterans and help them obtain the benefits that they earned through their service. While at Park University, I helped expand the University’s veterans’ support programs, and helped Park earn a $100,000 Success for Veterans Award from the American Council on Education and the Walmart Foundation for the educational needs of transitioning veterans.

After graduating from Park University with a BA in Political Science, I went to law school at Stetson University College of Law. There, I continued my advocacy for veterans by doing internships at the VA and the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, participating in the Veterans Law Clinic, and helping to create the Veterans Law Institute, which provides pro bono legal services to veterans seeking VA benefits. My biggest accomplishment during law school was establishing the Sgt. Jessie Davila Memorial Veterans Scholarship, which provides financial support to veterans so that they can attend law school. Shortly after graduating from Stetson, I moved to Washington D.C., where I had the privilege of serving as a Federal Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Robert N. Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

My experience serving as a law clerk helped me become a better all-around advocate for veterans because I learned Veterans Law and had to interpret and apply it to several different cases. I was also fortunate because this experience allowed me to observe the different litigation styles of the attorneys who practiced before the court, which I then incorporated into my own style of advocacy. Once I completed my clerkship, I returned to Florida—armed with my new knowledge and improved skill set—and began working for a private law firm as a Veterans Disability Attorney.

Elder Law & Estate Planning

Early on when I started representing veterans I noticed that many of them had issues that overlapped with several of the practice areas that Elder Law attorneys practiced, such as estate planning, and long-term care planning for programs like Medicaid and VA Pension (commonly referred to as Aid & Attendance). Many of the veterans had serious medical conditions that made it necessary for them to plan for incapacity by having advance directives in place like a durable power of attorney, health care surrogate designation, and a living will. They also wanted to make sure they had their affairs in order by drafting a last will and testament, and in some cases, utilizing a revocable living trust.

I knew that, if I was going to serve my fellow veterans to the best of my ability, I would need to learn more about Elder Law and Estate Planning, so I decided to pursue my Master of Law (LL.M.) in Elder Law at Stetson University College of Law. Shortly after graduating with this advanced legal degree, I took a position as Of Counsel for a respected Elder Law firm, where I had the privilege of expanding my legal knowledge and continuing my professional growth.

Probate & Trust Administration

Everyone knows that the only certainty in life is death. However, what some may not know is that when a person passes away their estates may have to go through probate. Having lost many loved ones in my lifetime, I wanted to assist others going through this challenging time. For this reason, I decided to practice probate law. The probate process is rules-oriented and structured, which can be very stressful to deal with while the family and loved ones of the deceased are still grieving their loss.

This process can become even more complicated and stressful when the decedent owns property in different estates or leaves behind a complicated estate, with or without a Last Will & Testament. My goals when dealing with probate cases are to take the stress of dealing with the process of administering the estate off the shoulders of my clients and to work efficiently and effectively with my client and the court to get the estate probated as promptly as possible.

In some instances, a person may avoid probate by having a trust in place when he or she passes away. A trust can simplify the process of getting the assets a person leaves behind to the beneficiaries he or she named in the trust document, but sometimes the trust itself is complicated or the assets titled in the trust are complex. I have helped several clients who were named as trustees of trusts to administer the trust by providing them with the guidance and legal advice necessary to carry out their duties properly and in a timely manner.

Personal Injury

A few years after I started practicing law I came across my first personal injury case, which involved a veteran who was injured in a car accident when he was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. Through this first auto accident case, I discovered just how little the insurance companies care about their clients who, in many cases, have paid their premiums for years without a single incident. I also learned that many insurance companies will find any way and make any argument to avoid paying out a claim. This means that it is vitally important that a person who is injured due to the negligence of another hire an attorney who understands how the insurance companies work and how to avoid the common mistakes that people make to lessen the value of their claims.

As with all other areas of law I practice, I approach my personal injury cases with compassion and dedication to my clients. My goal in these cases is to ensure that my clients are well informed about the status of their cases and understand the importance of receiving proper medical treatment. This requires good communication between myself and my clients to make sure that they comply with the treatment recommendations that they are given by their healthcare providers. I have never liked bullies and dealing with insurance companies can feel like you are being bullied to settle for less than what you deserve. If you feel this way, let me fight the insurance companies for you.

Ready to Serve

When I am not practicing law, I enjoy golfing, watching documentaries, spending time with my rescue dog Molly, and volunteering in the community. Every year I organize and host the Sgt. Jessie Davila Memorial Classic golf tournament to raise money for the scholarship in his name. I’m a Life Member of the Marine Corps League, the Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion. I’m also honored to serve as a Board Member for the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch. I am dedicated to serving others, whether it be in my community or in my legal practice, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve as your advocate and attorney.

St. Petersburg and Largo, Florida Veterans Benefits Lawyer