While Florida probate is both expensive and time-consuming, it is truly easy to avoid in most cases.
Yet many people fail to take any of the steps necessary to avoid probate in Florida.
Apart from that, the Florida probate records are records of the public court that everybody can access, and you can go down to the nearest county court to glance at the probate record.
There are so many stories that probate proceedings are lengthy, costly, and frustrating, leaving many people to take whatever measures are required to avoid probate in Florida. Whenever possible there are good reasons to avoid probate which will be discussed in this article.
For expert advice on avoiding probate, you can always consult with our Probate Attorneys at the Finity Law Firm.
How does Probate work in Florida?
Based on the size of the estate, probate can take as much time as two years anywhere from a few months. Beneficiaries who would need their inheritance often do not have access to funds or assets until the probate is complete.
Creditors are allowed to claim the estate during the probate period which is one of the factors that contributes to it taking so long.
How to avoid probate in Florida?
The following are ways through which probate can be avoided in Florida.
1. Avoiding Probate Through Living Trusts
One of the most common ways of avoiding probate is to establish a living trust. Any assets you own, whether real estate, bank accounts, cars, or personal items, can be put into a living trust.
A living trust resembles a will, appointing a trustee to take over on your death. Initially, ownership of your property is transferred to you when you are alive, ensuring that you will have the power of your properties throughout your lifetime.
Upon death, your estate will be handled by the successor trustee, in compliance with the instructions set out in your trust.
You can modify the entire trust in part or revoke it at any time through your lifetime.
And unlike the probate court, which is public, trusts work without public disclosures.
2. Joint Ownership / Joint Tenancy
If you add a joint owner to a bank account or savings account or property deed, it will help you avoid probate in Florida, as long as it is apparent that the account or immovable property is owned as joint tenants with survival rights and not as common tenants.
If you are married, then in Florida, you and your spouse can own bank accounts, savings accounts, tangible personal property, and immovable property with survivor rights in a special form which is known as tenancy by the entirety.
3. Transfer on Death (TOD) for Securities and Real-estate
TOD is a form of securities registration that enables you to appoint one or more beneficiaries to whom your securities account will pass on at death.
The brokerage company or other entity that accepts the registration of the Transfer on Death agrees to deliver the securities according to your instructions.
Any assets that pass to a beneficiary as a result of a TOD registration will be outside the probate estate and therefore avoid probate.
For immovable property (mainly real estate) you can use a special form of life estate deed called an enhanced life estate deed, also known as a “Ladybird Deed,” to maintain possession of Florida real estate throughout your lifetime and then transfer the property on to the beneficiaries of your preference after you die without the need to probate the real estate property in Florida.
In Florida, there are other ways of avoiding probate. Even though most methods aren’t as flexible as living trusts, they may still fit the bill to meet your planning strategies. The aim is to work with a competent estate planning lawyer to ensure that all your planning goals are met in the most versatile, economical way possible.
Can a Will avoid Probate?
There is a common misconception that a Will can avoid probate which is completely wrong.
A will does not avoid Probate.
The truth is that a Will sets out the wishes of the deceased, such as the appointment of beneficiaries and the Personal Representative to monitor the estate.
Essentially, the Will serves as the “roadmap” that the probate court will execute.
Remember that a Will is not self-implementing – it is the power given by the probate court that puts into effect the wishes set out in the Will. So in Florida having a Will does not necessarily avoid probate.
An estate plan customized to your specific requirements is the best way to secure your holdings and provide for members of your family. Contact the Finity Law Firm today to speak to a member of our legal team about your estate plan for the future and to avoid probate.
Our Orlando attorneys are standing by to provide you with services you can trust and depend on. We offer free consultations because we know each case is unique.
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