Unfortunately, there are myths about Florida probate that many people believe are facts. Below, we will debunk some of the most common ones.
The Most Common Myths about Florida Probate
Myth #1: If you die without a will, the state gets everything.
This is one of the most persistent and unfounded myths about Florida probate. The truth is that the state of Florida will only get your assets if you die without a will and without any living relatives who can inherit from you. This is called “escheat” and is very rare.
In most cases, if you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the Florida laws of intestate succession, which favor your spouse and children first, followed by other relatives such as parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.
However, this may not reflect your wishes or the needs of your family. For example, if you have minor children, they may inherit a portion of your estate directly, which may create problems for their guardianship and management. That is why it is always advisable to have a valid will that expresses your preferences and protects your loved ones.
Myth #2: Probate takes years and costs a fortune.
Another common myth about probate is that it is a lengthy and costly process that drains the estate of its value.
While it is true that some probate cases can take longer and cost more than others, especially if there are disputes among the heirs or creditors, most probate cases in Florida are relatively straightforward and can be completed within a year or less.
The cost of probate depends on several factors, such as the size and complexity of the estate, the fees of the personal representative and the attorney, and the court costs. However, these costs are usually paid from the estate assets before they are distributed to the beneficiaries, so they do not affect the inheritance of the heirs.
Moreover, there are ways to reduce or avoid the cost of probate, such as using summary administration for small estates (less than $75,000) or having non-probate assets that pass directly to the beneficiaries without court intervention (such as joint accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc.)
Myth #3: A will avoids probate.
Many people think that having a will means that their estate will not go through probate. This is not true.
A will is simply a document that tells the court how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It does not prevent your estate from going through probate. In fact, a will must be admitted to probate by the court in order to be effective.
The only way to avoid probate completely is to have no probate assets at all when you die. This can be achieved by using other estate planning tools that transfer your assets outside of your will and without court supervision, such as trusts, beneficiary designations, payable-on-death accounts, etc.
Myth #4: You do not need a lawyer for probate.
Some people think that they can handle probate on their own without hiring a lawyer. This is simply a mistake.
Probate involves many legal rules and procedures that can be confusing and overwhelming for someone who is not familiar with them. Moreover, probate can involve many issues that require legal advice and representation, such as dealing with creditor claims, resolving disputes among heirs or beneficiaries, filing tax returns and paying taxes, etc.
Hiring a lawyer can help you avoid mistakes and delays that could jeopardize your rights or interests in the estate. A lawyer can also help you explore other options that could simplify the probate process or even avoid probate altogether.
Need Help with Probate?
If you are facing probate in Florida or want to plan ahead to avoid it in the future, you need an experienced and trustworthy law firm to guide you through the process.
At Jurado & Associates, P.A., we understand that probate can be stressful and emotional, especially when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. That is why we are committed to making the process as smooth and hassle-free as possible for you and your family.