Understanding Probate In Florida
If you have started thinking about estate planning, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are many aspects to estate planning, and the ones that are important for you to focus on depend on your specific situation. It can be hard to figure out where to invest your effort or even where to start. Most people will tell you that creating a will is a good way to start, but what you may not realize is that a will, will not help you to avoid probate. So what is probate and why do you want to avoid it? We’ll explore those topics here.
What is Probate?
After someone passes away, their estate enters a period of probate. During probate, an estate administrator is responsible for settling the estate. This involves paying any outstanding debts or taxes from the estate assets, before distributing the remainder. How the remaining estate will be distributed depends on whether that individual has a valid last will and testament. If they do, their estate will be distributed based on the wishes articulated in that document after it is determined to be valid. Family members are would-be beneficiaries have the opportunity to challenge the will if they believe it is not valid or that it was made under duress or due to undue influence. If the individual does not have a will, or if their will is determined not to be valid and enforceable, their remaining estate will be distributed in accordance with Florida’s intestate succession statute. This statute tends to prioritize distribution to the individual’s spouse and children. If they do not have a spouse or children, it may go to their parents or siblings. If you want your estate distributed differently, it’s important to create a valid and enforceable will and make sure it is kept somewhere that it can be located after your death.
Why to Avoid Probate
Probate is a time consuming process, during which time your assets are essentially on ice. This means that if you have people who depend on you financially, such as a spouse or children, or if you share a home with someone, they may not be able to access critical assets until the estate has been settled and distributed in probate court. The probate court process can take several months and even over a year in cases where the estate is complex or is challenged. Additionally, the costs of probate court are deducted from the estate before it is distributed, so the longer your estate sits in probate court facing challenges, the more depleted the estate will become. In short, if you want to maximize your estate and make sure that any dependents are taken care of after you are gone, it’s important to avoid probate or limit the assets that must pass through it.
How to Avoid Probate
The best way to avoid probate is by having a comprehensive estate plan that involves trusts and co-ownership with survivorship rights to any shared bank accounts, property, or assets that you would want to transfer to another person upon your death.
Contact Mark R. Manceri Attorney at Law
If you are ready to start building your estate plan, Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer Mark R. Manceri, P.A. is ready to help. Contact Mark R. Manceri today to schedule a consultation.