Probate is a court-supervised process by which the court, through a personal representative, identifies and gathers the assets of a deceased person (also called a decedent), pays his or her debts, and distributes his or her assets to the appropriate beneficiaries. Although probate is useful and sometimes necessary, it has several disadvantages. Fortunately, probate can often be avoided through estate planning. In this article, we discuss the advantages of avoiding probate in Florida.
Reasons to Avoid Probate in Florida
There are many advantages to avoiding probate in Florida, including:
Cost: Legal fees and personal representative costs can add up quickly during the probate process. These fees are required by statute and are usually quite expensive. And although the estate planning process has some upfront costs, it ultimately saves money in the long run.
Privacy: When an estate goes through probate, all associated filings are public record. In other words, anyone can view an estate’s probate documents. It is possible to keep such documents private, however, through the estate planning process.
Control: The probate process is regulated by the court, meaning an estate’s personal representative must request court permission to administer certain assets, such as real property. This can result in long delays in completing certain transactions, such as selling a decedent’s home. Estate planning, however, gives a decedent’s agent increased flexibility and control after death.
Time: Formal probate administration can take anywhere from eight months to a year to complete. And if an estate has any illiquid assets, the probate process can easily take longer. Estate planning, on the other hand, significantly shortens the length of the estate administration process.
Ways to Avoid Probate in Florida
Although it isn’t always possible to completely avoid probate, there are several ways to reduce the court’s participation in the estate administration process, including:
Create a trust: Creating a trust is probably the most popular and effective method of avoiding probate. Because assets placed in a trust are held in the name of the trust—not the name of the decedent— probate isn’t needed to distribute trust assets.
Designate a beneficiary: In Florida, life insurance accounts, IRAs, and similar accounts allow an account holder to designate a beneficiary. Upon the account holder’s death, the designated beneficiary obtains access to the funds held in the account without the need for probate.
Change real estate ownership: Finally, an effective way of avoiding probate is to include an heir’s name in the deed to real estate to ensure that the named heir obtains the real property without having to go through the probate process.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you are ready to begin the estate planning process in Florida, our experienced estate planning attorney is here for you. At the Law Office of Angela Siegel, attorney Angela Siegel uses her vast experience and knowledge to guide clients through the Florida estate planning process. When you come to the Law Office of Angela Siegel for assistance, Ms. Siegel will work with you to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected for years to come. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.