A major benefit to working with an experienced estate and probate lawyer is that doing so can, to a large extent, help your estate to avoid probate. Avoiding probate saves your estate time and money and your loved ones distress and headaches. In today’s post we will give you 3 actions you can take to avoid probate.
What is Probate?
Before we get to how to avoid it, however, it is important that you understand what probate is. In a nutshell, probate is the legal process for distributing a decedent’s property.
If the decedent (person who has died) has a Last Will and Testament (“Will”), then (assuming no complications exist) after the Will is probated, his or her property will be distributed according to decedent’s Will.
If decedent died without having made a Will or the Will is invalid for some reason, then decedent’s property will be distributed in accordance with statute (i.e., the state’s intestacy laws).
The point to keep in mind is that probate —– especially when there is no Will — is a long and expensive process. So, to the extent possible, it is best to avoid having a lot of property that must pass through probate.
Which brings us to the 3 actions you can take to avoid probate.
- Establish a Trust.
A trust is a very versatile estate planning tool. Essentially, a revocable living trust (“trust”) is a written document that controls how your property will be distributed when you die. At your death, the assets in the trust (i.e., the property it is funded with) will be administered by a trustee (someone you have named in the trust to administer the trust after your death).
Having a trust can help you to avoid probate because at your death, the trustee of the trust (or successor trustee) is the legal owner of the property in the trust. Thus, the court does not need to get involved in distributing your assets, because the trustee will do it.
- Name Beneficiaries on Your Accounts
If you have bank accounts, IRA accounts, life insurance accounts or other accounts that allow you to name a beneficiary, make sure you take advantage of this way of avoiding probate.
When you have a named beneficiary (don’t forget to name alternatives, too) the money in the account will pass directly to that person.
- Don’t Hold Real Property in Your Name Alone.
Real estate that is held in your name only, must go through probate to be distributed to your heirs.
You can avoid probate by holding property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship with someone else (or, in Florida, if you are married, as “tenants by the entirety”). This allows the real estate to pass directly to that person when you die.
These are only 3 ways to avoid probate. There are many others. To find out what options may be best for you and your situation, consult with an experienced Florida probate attorney.
Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.
Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.