Probate is a court-supervised process to administer the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Depending on various circumstances, probate may result in a time-consuming and stressful experience for your loved ones.
Does estate planning avoid probate in Florida? Read on to find out.
Does Estate Planning Avoid Probate in Florida? – The Verdict
Florida law allows you to rely on different estate planning tools to avoid probate. If you want to protect your legacy and ensure only the designated persons will inherit from your estate, you must work with an expert attorney to build a solid estate plan.
No matter how large or complex an estate is, a well-crafted estate plan can help your loved ones avoid or mitigate the effects of probate as much as possible.
Another good reason to avoid probate is the costs involved in a court-supervised administration. In wealthier estates, up to 5% of the decedent’s assets subject to probate may be used to pay for expenses involved in the process.
Does a Last Will Avoid Probate in Florida?
Unfortunately, many Florida residents believe that a will is sufficient to avoid probate, which is not true. A last will is a fundamental document in any estate plan, as it allows the testator to:
- Outline how the estate must be distributed
- Provide what each heir must receive from the estate
- Appoint a personal representative to administer the estate during probate (if applicable)
- Designate guardians for minor children or dependents with special needs
Even though the last will does not avoid probate, this document is crucial to avoid intestacy. When someone dies without a will, the deceased’s estate is administered under Florida laws of intestacy.
Florida Statutes Chapter 732 encompasses the statutory rules to administer intestate estates. In such cases, state law has specific provisions to determine the heirs of the intestate estate, what they will inherit, and the order of preference for inheritance.
Does Estate Planning Avoid Probate in Florida? – Probate Assets vs. Non-Probate Assets
Another fundamental aspect of any estate plan is to identify probate and non-probate assets. Once they are properly identified, it is possible to treat these assets differently and build a specific strategy to fulfill your specific needs.
In essence, all assets owned solely in the decedent’s name at the time of death are subject to probate. Examples of probate assets include:
- Real estate or land owned solely in the decedent’s name
- Real estate or land owned under tenancy in common
- Personal bank accounts titled in the decedent’s sole name
- Interests in business held in the decedent’s name (e.g., profit shares)
- Life insurance policies or brokerage accounts listing the decedent (or the estate) as the beneficiary
Conversely, non-probate assets are assets exempt from probate under Florida law or assets that are no longer part of the decedent’s estate at the time of death. Examples of assets that do not go through Florida probate include:
- Real property or land held under joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety
- Any asset titled in the name of a trust
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
- Bank/brokerage accounts held under joint tenancy
- Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts
- Life insurance or brokerage-related accounts with designated beneficiaries
- Household furniture, furnishings, and appliances in the decedent’s primary residence valued at no more than $20,000