Strategies to avoid probate, but it's not one size fits all

Updated: Feb 17

Many people have a difficult time accepting the concept of their own death, but it is important to set aside the morbid nature of the topic and understand what happens upon your passing. Regardless of whether you have a will, there are still legal and financial issues to wrap up as part of your final affairs. The process for doing so is termed “probate”, and it may require a court to appoint someone to act on your behalf. Though the details vary depending on the state, the estate administration may be quite complex and lengthy, potentially lasting several months or even years.

Fortunately, it may be possible to avoid probate entirely or handle your estate through summary administration that greatly expedites the process. However, making the arrangements requires effort on your part. A probate and estate administration lawyer can explain the specifics and assist with your options, which may include:

Beneficiary Designations

With some bank accounts, you can designate a beneficiary who will be entitled to the proceeds at your death. For these “payable on death” (POD) assets, the person you have listed will need to go to the financial institution and present a death certificate to gain access to the funds. Beneficiaries on these POD accounts are not required to show letters of office, a will, or other documentation because the assets transfer by operation of law. Life insurance works in similar fashion. None of these assets are part of your probate estate, having been transferred to the beneficiary at the moment of your passing.

Joint Ownership of Assets

Real estate and some types of personal property can be owned jointly by two or more individuals indicated on the ownership documentation. Examples include:

● The deed to a home or other property;

● The title to your vehicle;

● Bank accounts that include multiple signatories; or,

● The deed to a timeshare property.

When assets are held jointly, the remaining owners equally split the ownership interest of one who passes away. Most often, the individuals are a married couple, so the surviving spouse will become the sole owner. Like beneficiary designations, the transfer is through operation of law and probate is not necessary.

Living Trust With “Pour Over” Will

When you create a living trust, you must fund it by transferring the title of assets into the name of the trust. As a result, you do not have an ownership interest in the items; the trust is the legal owner, so probate is unnecessary. If there are any assets that you failed to re-title before death, it is smart to prepare a will that “pours over” these items into the trust.

A Probate Administration Attorney Can Provide Additional Details

When you realize the costs and time involved with complicated estate administration, it is certainly worthwhile to explore options for avoiding probate in Florida. These noted options should not be implemented without understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each option, which may or may not be suitable to your individualized circumstances. For more information, please contact Francois Williams Legal to schedule a consultation.

Once we assess your circumstances, our team can advise you on strategies for streamlining the estate administration process.

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