The Florida Probate process is so famous for its delays, costs and aggravation that most people try to avoid it, if possible. Some people, however, are known for saying something along the lines of, “It won’t matter, I will be dead.” (insert canned laughter). While it is true that your probate would occur after your death, think about the legacy you would like to leave behind and how easy you would like to make things for your family. That is what is at issue and that is why you want to avoid probate. So with all due respect, it isn’t about you. But, it is precisely about what you can do for others. I know you want to do good. Who makes up your heart? Can you be a “heart hero” for another?
Do you want to be remembered as the person that got his/her affairs in order and made it so your family did not have to jump through hoops to obtain funds? If so, read on about how to avoid Florida probate for your family.
What does it mean to avoid Florida probate?
First, let’s talk about what it really means to “avoid Florida probate.” The probate process is a fancy way of saying that your family needs permission to distribute your assets. If you don’t actively come up with creative ways for your family to receive your money immediately and hassle-free, then they will need to request permission from the Courts to release your funds.
For example, after a death, your family member may have the Will and the information that he/she is the sole beneficiary. The family member goes to the bank with the account papers and a Death Certificate and attempts to withdraw the funds. The bank will not allow that to occur and will ask for “letters” or an Order from the court. The family member will then have to begin its search for a probate attorney to open up an official probate, file papers, search for creditors, wait for the creditors to file their claims, obtain the court order, and finally, if anything is left, distribute the funds. That’s a lot of work. But, you can easily set up your legal papers now to completely 100% avoid that process.
Why avoid Florida probate?
The Florida probate process takes several weeks to months to complete. It also costs money that your family either has to front, or pay later through your estate (if the estate has sufficient funds). If the estate does not have enough money, the family has to ensure that it can pay the attorney’s bills. The family member will have to fill out Intake Forms, search for assets, perhaps hire asset finders and then notarize documents in advance of filing. Many family members then immediately have their own estate plans drafted, wanting to avoid this process for future generations.
Meanwhile, everything must be on hold. The family cannot yet sell the property but usually will continue paying for the mortgage and other bills to keep the home air-conditioned and in good condition. The home must be secured to prevent anyone from removing cherished mementos before the inventory of personal property is taken. You are hounded by investors writing letters interested in buying the property. Your family has had to pay your funeral costs and the probate costs/fees. And, your family becomes anxious, writing to the probate attorney weekly to see if there are any updates.
How does a Florida resident avoid probate?
If the person dies without leaving any property or assets in his/her sole name, then the estate can avoid probate.
Revocable Trusts. One popular way of avoiding Probate is through the use of a Revocable Trust.
However, if a person has a very simple estate, he/she can do certain things to allow the family to legal gain title, or rights to assets, upon death. These options include naming beneficiary designations, obtaining payable on death accounts, joint ownership of property with others, or taking up the minimalist lifestyle, I suppose.
With each option comes qualifiers. For instance, you shouldn’t name minor children as beneficiaries on life insurance otherwise a guardian must be appointed. Joint ownership also gets tricky and can have many unintended consequences.
What should I do now?
You should definitely do something–take some sort of action to avoid this court case for your loved ones. Start with a free call to see if you need creative estate planning. Avoiding probate is a true act of love as you are making things easier for your loved ones.
February 2021 is our “Be a Heart Hero Month.” You are a hero for someone else’s heart (and peace of mind, sanity, wallet and more) when you do some preemptive planning now, to make the experience easier for them then.
If you want to run your case by a professional and you live in Florida (or New York), contact Lori Vella.
Lori Vella is an Estate Planning and Business Attorney. She works virtually throughout Florida and New York, but has her home office in Tampa, Florida. She is mom to a little boy which ignited the passion for helping other families. She and her son enjoy car rides, playgrounds and taking mini-adventures. They also have an organic garden that surprisingly yields vegetables. Lori considers herself well-versed in Seinfeld and welcomes any trivia!
Disclaimer: The Law Office of Lori Vella’s website contains general information directed to Florida residents. This firm does not intend to give legal advice through its pages and/or blog. If you need legal advice, we encourage you to find an attorney licensed in your state. This language on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and this firm.