wonderfullifeRecent polls reveal that “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been voted the Christmas film of all time. The classic film took the number one spot over other Christmas favorites, including Elf, Love Actually, Home Alone, and the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Although we can all agree that It’s a Wonderful Life, most of us are not prepared for it to end! The “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” salutations are rarely accompanied with the declaration that “we are all going to die;” we thought we would steal the Grinch’s moment, and be the bearers of bad news. If you have lost a loved one that failed to put a probate-avoiding-estate plan into place, you will be dealing with a mighty gruesome process. However, with the right attorney (and maybe a little holiday eggnog), the stress associated with probate can be significantly reduced.

Probate is the process of validating and distributing the decedent’s assets. This includes a variety of payments that the personal representative will be responsible for distributing, including those to creditors, the court fees, taxes and administration expenses (estate costs, funeral costs, etc.). Naturally, this will also include distributions to the beneficiaries entitled to the assets, as named in the will or trust. This entire process involves extremely complex considerations that are not apparent to anyone who is not trained in the practice of probate administration. Slight mistakes can result in a significant increase in both time and money; and thus it is very important to ensure that the estate is being administered properly. This process will involve tax related consequences, dealing with creditors, inventorying property, appraising property, paying off debts, court filings, procedures to avoid litigation, and considerations associated with exempt property, family allowance, and elective share benefits. In Florida, you cannot avoid the probate process, but you can shift the burden to a trusted attorney who can provide the most expedient and stress free process as possible.

It is a wonderful life, but don’t let it be a Grinch in deathfind the right attorney to manage and avoid the pitfalls and problems associated with probate! 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.

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