Florida probate is a lengthy process and is expensive. When you plan ahead of time, you can avoid probate in many cases. Planning ahead means creating an estate plan. While you might think it is expensive to retain an attorney to help you create the estate plan, it is not as expensive as going through probate. When choosing an estate planning attorney, make sure you find a wills and estate lawyer, such as France Law Firm. In many circumstances, simple wills do not help you avoid probate.
The Necessity of Probate
When a person dies without a will – dies intestate – the probate process inventories and disburses the decedent’s assets according to Florida Statutes. The probate process passes ownership of the decedent’s assets to the next of kin or, if the decedent has a will, to the beneficiaries. You must admit a valid will to the probate court or it is not effective to pass ownership of assets. Probate also ensures that the decedent’s financial affairs are completed.
The key to avoiding probate when you own real estate is in how you originally title the real estate. If you title the property as joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, it will pass directly to the other owner. If your deed says tenants in common, it does not pass directly to the other person on the deed. Often, closing agents and lawyers use tenants in common if you buy real estate with someone you are not married to, or if you and a relative purchase real estate together.
If your deed does not say joint tenancy or tenants by the entirety, contact an estate lawyer to help you either change the deed or deed the property to your children or spouse. You may also consider creating a life estate deed. Your attorney will tell you the pros and cons of each method so you can choose the method that best suits your situation.
Create a Trust
Florida recognizes many trusts. Your estate planning attorney can help you choose the type of trust that best suits your situation. Trusts may be revocable, which means you can change them at any time, or irrevocable, which means that you cannot change the trust once it has been created.
When you create a trust, you have to fund it. If you do not fund the trust, it won’t do you much good. You can create a pour-over will that refers to the trust once you die, but if the trust is not valid or is not funded, you’ll end up going through probate.
When you create a bank account, you can create a joint bank account, though other heirs may be entitled to the bank account. To avoid any question of who gets the money in your account after your death, create a ‘payable-on-death’ account. The beneficiary’s name is listed on the account, but he or she does not have access to the account until you die.
Florida does not allow transfer-on-death titles for vehicles. Instead, put the vehicle in your name and your beneficiary’s name. It is not advisable to title it in only your beneficiary’s name unless that person is your spouse.
You can register stocks and bonds as transfer-on-death. As with bank accounts, your beneficiary does not have access to the stocks and bonds until your death when the securities automatically transfer to the beneficiary.
Contact France Law Firm
Regardless of your age, you should create an estate plan. Even if you have very few assets, you can save your heirs money by creating an estate plan. As you gain more assets over the years, you do not have to create a new estate plan – you simply update your current one. An estate plan also helps to protect your assets from certain creditors, and it can help you avoid paying some taxes. Contact the estate probate attorneys at France Law Firm today to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate plan and learn how to avoid probate.