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Is it possible to avoid probate in Florida?

Some Florida residents dread the thought of probate. When your loved one dies, maybe you just want to make the arrangements, attend the funeral and settle any legal matters as fast as possible without any interference from judges or courtrooms.

What is it about probate that seems so intimidating? FindLaw defines it simply as "a court-supervised process of distributing and overseeing property after a person dies." That cannot be so bad, can it? Yet, you may be hoping to avoid it, and the good news is sometimes you can.

FindLaw suggests avoiding probate may be possible if your loved ones are proactive in making their wishes known prior to the end of life. They can do this in several ways.

First, they can designate beneficiaries. According to FindLaw, some states allow "transfer-on-death" titles for vehicles and homes, securities and bank accounts. This means as soon as the original account holder passes away, ownership transfers to you, if you are the beneficiary. This is one simple method for avoiding probate.

Another is through living trusts. A popular choice, this type of trust allows the owner to transfer property to a trust fund and appoint a successor trustee. When the owner dies, the successor immediately takes over and distributes assets to you and the other designated recipients.

Finally, FindLaw suggests joint tenancy as an option to help you avoid probate. In this arrangement, two individuals own property equally; when one passes, the other remains the sole owner. Parents can take advantage of this option by adding their children as equal owners of the property they hope to pass down.

If you are a married couple, the agreement for you is similar, but the name is "tenancy by the entirety," indicating "the surviving owner [the spouse] automatically receives the entire interest in the property."

Note the purpose of this information is to educate regarding probate avoidance. It does not intend to offer legal advice.


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