The death rate in Florida is 100%, which means NO ONE can completely avoid the probate process. The term probate generally refers to the method by which your estate (the totality of the assets in your personal name at death) is administered and processed through the legal system after you die.  The probate process helps you divide and assign parts of your estate in an orderly and supervised manner. Your estate must be divided according to the specifics of your Will, if you die with a Will, or according to statute if you die intestate or without a Will. (Your debts and taxes must be paid before your beneficiaries receive their inheritance, for example).

If you have creditors at death, those debts must be satisfied before dividing the remainder of your assets, additionally there may be taxes due and those must be paid before distribution as well.  This means that the process of finding your creditors and paying those debts can take months and the distribution of the remainder to your heirs may become complicated.  There are legal methods that allow a person to make the process of distributing assets after death more efficient and less costly, which is an advantage to your family and loved ones and a wise investment.  Planning for the future will save your family members additional grief and possibly avoid conflict among family members and other beneficiaries.

Having a Will is a solid first step in the right direction to ease the probate process, but that is not all you need.  Placing your property in Trust to protect it from creditors, drafting a Power of Attorney, a Living Will and a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate are other methods to ensure that nothing is left to chance, that your family will be protected and that somebody you trust will make legal decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself.

An attorney that specializes in estate planning can help explain the legal tools that are available to each individual depending on their financial situation and their specific needs.  Common methods that are utilized to avoid probate are Revocable Trusts which allow your property to be protected from creditors and susceptible to probate.  By scheduling a consultation an attorney can better explain the additional benefits of creating a revocable trust and how this can save you time and money in the long run.

It is important to note that you do not have to have a large estate to take advantage of the benefits of having your assets in a trust or any other legal estate planning tools.  This is a common misconception, but having an estate plan is something that everyone should give serious consideration to.  Additionally, it is also important to mention that although having an estate plan may not seem like a priority to most people, you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

Nobody likes to think about death or incapacity, but these are facts of life and it can happen to any of us at any given time.  If you have a family and if you have small children you should plan for their care in case you can no longer care for them and this is something that an estate planning attorney can help you with.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected? SM

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.