The goal of avoiding probate is near the top of the list for many Florida residents when establishing their estate plans. And while it is typically desirable to do so, probate is not necessarily a negative process and at times may be useful. For example, where there is a dispute regarding creditors of the estate or among the heirs or beneficiaries, probate can be the proper forum for resolution. However, where an expedited process of settling the estate as economically as possible is desired, there are ways to avoid probate.
Absent some controversy requiring the probate court’s supervision, the primary reason probate would be required is to change title from the decedent to the intended beneficiary and otherwise supervise the distributions to be made under terms of the decedent’s will. And, of course, probate is required in situations of intestacy where there is no will. Probate can be time consuming, is a public matter, and is subject to statutory fees that are deducted from the estate.
There are several options to avoid probate, and one is to hold assets such that they are considered not subject to the process. Property held in joint title with a right of survivorship goes immediately to the survivor upon the death of the first. Similarly, monetary accounts held where a pay on death beneficiary has been designated is not subject to probate. Any asset properly held in a trust is distributed as per the terms of the trust without need for the probate court’s supervision.
There are many options available for people who contemplating how they wish their estate to be handled once they die. An estate planning lawyer can provide guidance and counsel to ensure that a client’s final wishes are respected.