We are all familiar with our country’s most important holiday, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July. After a grueling period of ups and downs, on July 4th, 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, finally declaring independence from Great Britain. If you know anything about the term probate, you know that the process can feel a lot like the grueling encounters that the thirteen colonies fought back in the 1700’s. If you are not familiar with the phrase, in South Florida, probate is the legal process of distributing the estate of a Florida decedent to the intended beneficiaries or heirs. If a will is drafted, a probate judge will determine its validity, make sure all debts are resolved, and then distribute property according to the wishes of the decedent. The issues include prolonged waiting time for final estate resolution and additional administrative and legal fees.

If you remember correctly, the thirteen colonies didn’t gain independence for four hundred forty-two days after start of American Revolution. Probate can feel very similar; it takes forever. The deceased individual’s property must be properly inventoried and identified. All necessary appraisals of any properties involved must be completed, and debts will be paid off. The estate needs to be distributed. If the deceased owned property outside of Florida, then the entire process may have to be repeated in the proper jurisdiction. With a smaller estate worth just a few hundred thousand, the proceeding might last around 6 months. With an estate under $1 million, where conflicting interests of family members are present, the process might take up to 18 months. However, for more complex estates, it may take a few years before final resolution.

Probate is also extremely expensive. Living in South Florida, you can expect to pay about three to seven percent of the total estate value in addition to court fees, personal representative fees, attorney’s fees, accounting fees, appraisal and business valuation fees, bond fees, and anything else that may come up along the way. The validity of a will is often questioned, and creditors can stake a claim on the estate. This can prolong the process for years resulting in additional legal fees. Finally, there are forthcoming estate taxes that will leave your legacy in disarray.

Continue the legacy of this great nation, and gain independence against the grueling process and hefty costs that are hindering your estate – declare your freedom from probate!