You know how the old saying goes: what you don’t know can’t hurt you. When it comes to the probate process in Florida, what you don’t know might not hurt you but it certainly will hurt the loved ones you leave behind. Florida’s probate system is both a slow and expensive process that can elevate an already stressful and sensitive situation. It’s important that everyone not only understand what probate is but how the process can potentially impact the loved ones they leave behind.
Probate is the legal process of proving your last will and testament in court. Unfortunately, even a small estate could take up to a full year to be administered due to a high number of cases passing through the court system. Smaller estates are those that are worth less than $75,000 and this type of administration is referred to as a Summary Administration. If your estate exceeds $75,000 then your family will have to petition the court for a Formal Administration and, in most cases, should be prepared to wait longer than a before distributions will be made. This can be financially burdensome and extremely stressful for the family. Luckily, there are ways in which you can prepare now so you family doesn’t have to deal with probate later. Owning assets jointly will allow them to pass free of probate. Either holding property as a married couple (Tenants by the Entireties) or as Joint Tenants with the Right of Survivorship will allow the property to pass immediately to the surviving owner. Beneficiary designation (such as with a life insurance policy) is another great way to avoid probate as well as a pay on death or transfer on death designation (with banking and brokerage accounts, as an example). Perhaps one of the most popular ways to avoid probate is to create a living revocable trust which will hold your assets for the named beneficiaries and pass free of probate. A trust as many additional benefits, such as choosing how and when your assets will be distributed, asset protection for the beneficiaries against unsecured creditors, the ability to keep you assets within the family for generations to come as well as planning for individuals with special needs. With so many alternatives available probate certainly does not have to be part of your future.
Remember, probate offers no real benefit for those family members that you leave left behind. It tends to cause a great deal of stress and frustration which is why you should consider avoiding it all together. Call the office of Wild, Felice & Partners today for your free consultation at (954) 944-2855.
For more information on Probate, Estate Planning, and Asset Protection, visit our website at www.wfplaw.com.
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