Avoiding Probate in Florida: A Multi-faceted Approach

Avoiding probate is generally regarded as a good thing. Probate entails filing legal documents and attending court hearings. It is known to be lengthy and expensive. But what does probate mean? “Probate” refers to the legal proceedings commenced after death to administer and distribute a decedent’s estate and wind up the affairs and debts left at the time of death.

Contrary to what you may think, probate is usually a routine process. Although there is a certain amount of time and expense involved, the complexity of probate is entirely dictated by the circumstances at the time of death and the claims and disputes arising from interested persons. Many estates partly or entirely avoid probate, which reduces fees and ensures that their beneficiaries can access their inheritance quickly.

Legal Tools or Arrangements to Avoid Probate are:

  • Payable-on-death designations can be arranged for savings accounts, certificates of deposit, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies that give immediate access of funds to your loved ones.
  • Life estates allow the original property owners to live out their lives and directly pass the real estate, without probate, to the surviving owner.
  • Revocable and irrevocable living trusts transfer assets during the owner’s lifetime to a trustee, giving the trustee immediate authority to manage and distribute the assets after the owner’s death.
  • Enhanced Life Estates, also known as Ladybird deeds, give the original owners total control of the property during their lifetime and transfers without probate after the owner’s death.
  • Joint ownership with rights of survivorship is when two people are listed on a property deed, and after one joint owner dies, the deed automatically passes to the other owner.
  • Transfer on Death (TOD) designations for brokerage and securities accounts and funds in IRA accounts are automatic transfers.

Estate Planning is not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Estate planning takes a multi-faceted approach, with each strategy having pros and cons. The best estate settlement process will depend on your particular circumstances and preferences. Probate is designed to protect the property of the deceased and their heirs, whether or not there is a will. It ensures that the correct beneficiaries receive the property to which they are entitled and is especially advantageous for distributing small estates when no estate planning occurs.

There are certain disadvantages of probate as well. Probate is a public record and therefore is available for public viewing. The court, attorney, and personal representative fees are deducted from the estate, leaving fewer assets for your loved ones. In complex cases, the distribution of assets may be delayed for a lengthy time.

Protecting Your Estate

At C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A., our estate planning team can help you develop the right strategies for your estate plan. As part of an estate planning consultation, we make recommendations to you based on your circumstances.

Our experienced estate planning attorney can help you develop an estate plan to meet the needs of your loved ones. Contact C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A. at (407) 656-1576 to schedule an appointment to discuss transferring your assets as inexpensively and efficiently as possible. Our office location is Winter Garden, Florida, and we represent clients throughout Orlando and Central Florida.

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