Avoiding probate in Florida is not impossible. In fact, it can be easy if you work with the right team of legal professionals. The key is efficient estate planning.
Probate can be a lengthy, costly, and stressful process for your loved ones, so keep on reading to learn what you need to know about probate and how to avoid it.
The Disadvantages of Probate
Probate is not always a bad thing. In some cases, it can provide a fair and orderly way of distributing your estate according to your wishes. However, probate also has some drawbacks that you may want to avoid, such as:
- Time: Probate can take anywhere from six months to two years or even longer. During this time, your assets will be inaccessible to your beneficiaries, who may need them for their living expenses or other purposes.
- Cost: Probate can be expensive, as it involves various fees and expenses that can reduce the value of your estate, and therefore, the amount of inheritance that your heirs or beneficiaries will receive. According to some estimates, probate can consume 3% to 8% of your estate’s value.
- Publicity: Probate is a public process, which means that anyone can access the court records and documents related to your estate, such as your will, your inventory of assets and liabilities, and your list of heirs or beneficiaries. This can:
- Expose your personal and financial information to the public,
- Compromise your privacy and security, as well as the privacy and security of your loved ones, and
- Invite unwanted attention from opportunists who may try to challenge your will or claim a share of your estate.
- Lack of control: Probate can limit your control over how the assets in your estate are distributed and managed. Even if you have a valid will, the probate court may still intervene and override some of your provisions if they are deemed invalid, illegal, or contrary to public policy.
How to Avoid Probate in Florida
There are several ways to avoid probate in the State of Florida, depending on your specific circumstances and goals. Some of the most common and effective strategies and tools that can help you avoid probate in Florida are:
This is a legal entity that holds your assets during your lifetime and distributes them to your beneficiaries after your death, according to the terms and conditions that you set.
A living trust can help you avoid probate because the assets in the trust are not considered part of your probate estate, and therefore do not have to go through the probate process.
You can create a living trust by transferring your assets to the trust and naming yourself as the trustee (the person who manages the trust) and naming your beneficiaries (the people who will inherit from the trust).
You can also name a successor trustee (the person who will take over the management of the trust in case you become incapacitated or die) and a trust protector (the person who can oversee and modify the trust in case of unforeseen circumstances).
A living trust can offer you many benefits, such as avoiding probate, maintaining control, preserving your privacy, protecting your assets, reducing taxes, and providing flexibility.
This is a form of ownership where two or more people share the title and rights to an asset. Joint ownership can help you avoid probate because when one of the joint owners dies, their share of the asset automatically passes to the surviving joint owner(s), without having to go through the probate process.
There are different types of joint ownership. These are:
- Joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS),
- Tenancy by the entirety (TBE), and
- Community property with right of survivorship (CPWROS).
Each type has its own rules and implications, so you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before choosing one.
Beneficiary designations are a way of naming individuals or entities who will inherit specific assets upon your death, without having to go through the probate process. You can use beneficiary designations for various types of assets, such as:
- Bank accounts,
- Retirement accounts,
- Life insurance policies,
- Mutual funds, and
- Other securities.
You can create a beneficiary designation by filling out a form provided by the institution that holds or issues the asset and naming one or more primary beneficiaries (the people or entities who will inherit first) and contingent beneficiaries (the people or entities who will inherit if the primary beneficiaries are not alive or cannot inherit).
You can also specify how much each beneficiary will receive and how they will receive it (such as in lump sum or installments). You can change or revoke your beneficiary designations at any time, as long as you are alive and mentally competent.
Payable on death (POD) accounts:
A POD account is a type of bank account that allows you to name a beneficiary who will inherit the balance of the account upon your death, without having to go through the probate process. You can create a POD account by opening a regular bank account and adding a POD designation to it.
The benefits of POD accounts include:
- You can name one or more beneficiaries;
- You can change or revoke the beneficiary designations at any time, as long as you are alive and mentally competent;
- You have full control over your account during your lifetime;
- You can withdraw or deposit money as you wish; and
- Your beneficiaries have no access or rights to the money in your POD account until your death.
Transfer on death (TOD) deeds:
This is a type of deed that allows you to name a beneficiary who will inherit your real property upon your death, without having to go through the probate process. You can create a TOD deed by signing and recording a document that states your intention to transfer your property to your beneficiary upon your death.
The benefits of TOD deeds include:
- You can name one or more beneficiaries;
- You can change the beneficiaries at any time, as long as you are alive and mentally competent;
- You have full control over your property during your lifetime;
- You can sell or mortgage it as you wish; and
- Your beneficiaries have no access or rights to your property until your death.
Avoiding Probate in Florida is Easy When You Work with Experts
If you want to avoid probate in Florida and enjoy the benefits of efficient estate planning, you need the guidance and assistance of a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney. At Jurado & Associates, P.A.,we have the knowledge and expertise to help you create a customized estate plan that suits your situation and goals and helps your family get the assets you leave them quickly and without headaches.