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Estates of any size can be subject to probate

There are a large number of misconceptions when it comes to estate planning. Unfortunately, many of us rely upon less-than-expert advice that individuals in the media or even in our neighborhoods are willing to offer.  In the long run, it may prove much less costly to locate the correct advice.

One common myth is the belief that preparation of a Last Will and Testament will mean that the estate can avoid probate.  However, even in Florida this is not the case.  The goal of probate courts is to make certain that assets are delivered to the proper beneficiaries and heirs.  

The will is obviously an important tool to make certain that the intentions of the deceased individual are carried out.  Still other tools are required to make certain the probate process can be avoided.  Such tools can include a Revocable Living Trust.

Many individuals feel that such a trust is only needed to avoid paying an estate tax if the estate exceeds $5,250,000.  Such an assumption is a mistake because any size estate could be required to go through probate.  Avoiding probate may be even more essential for smaller estates since the probate process can be expensive.

There are many reasons why we want such documents in place besides avoiding probate or saving expense.  We can use such documents to name guardians for minor children or to arrange for support of an elderly parent or disabled child.

Estate planning attorneys can help individuals get past the misconceptions and take steps that can protect the estate from being depleted.  It's best to take such steps before the depletion already has begun.

Source: TCPalm, "Explaining common misconceptions about wills and trusts," Robert Schwartz, March 5, 2014

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