The Florida probate courts exist in large part to help manage the estates of those who have recently died. However, going through probate can mean spending quite a bit of money and waiting to distribute assets to beneficiaries.
If you want to keep as much of your wealth in your family as possible, creating an estate plan that tries to minimize your probate requirements can be a smart approach to the process. However, in order to make a plan as effective as possible, you need to understand which assets in your estate will be most vulnerable to probate requirements.
Real estate held in your name has to go through probate
Few pieces of personal property have as much financial and emotional value as real property. In order to prevent fraud and reduce estate administration conflicts, it is a requirement that all real estate held by someone who dies must go through probate before passing to another individual for ownership.
Ways of avoiding this requirement include holding the property in a trust or changing your deed to have joint tenancy with rights of survivorship so that the property passes to your spouse without going through probate when you die.
Financial accounts held only in your name also go through probate
Whether you have a standard checking account or a large investment portfolio, accounts held solely in your name will generally need to go through probate before other people can access them after your death.
It is possible to have transfer designations for certain kinds of accounts that automatically transfer ownership rights to a specific individual when you die. Using your accounts to fund a trust can be another way to avoid the obligation to have them pass through probate.
Your life insurance may have to go through probate as well
Some people name their estates as the beneficiaries for their life insurance policy, annuity contract or retirement fund. They may do this to make things simpler when it comes to paying for funeral expenses or dividing the remaining value after internment costs among their heirs. However, if the estate is the beneficiary, those assets will have to go through probate before they reach your family members.
If you address each of your vulnerable assets individually when estate planning, you can potentially eliminate the obligation to go through probate court. Discussing your assets and the legacy you want to leave behind with a lawyer can help you avoid probate.