The complexities and costs of probate make the process undesirable in most estate planning efforts. As such, various legal strategies are used to avoid probate when possible.
What is Probate?
Probate is an often tedious, court-supervised proceeding whereby a deceased person's estate is administered. The process includes:
- Establishing the authenticity of the deceased's will,
- Appointing someone to handle the estate's affairs, including paying debts and taxes,
- Distributing the property of the estate according to the will.
When no will is present, the property is distributed amongst surviving relatives according to Florida law.
Probate can be a lengthly process, lasting up to a year or more. Also, depending on the complexities involved, probate costs can become significant.
In Florida, estates worth less than $75,000 may be eligible for a simplified probate procedure called "summary administration."
How to Avoid Probate
Many estate-planning strategies involve avoiding probate, and will often utilize the following:
- Pay-on-death bank accounts,
- Transfer-on-death securities accounts (for stocks),
- Transfer-on-death automobile registration,
- Transfer-on-death deeds for houses and real estate property,
- Joint tenancy,
- Joint tenancy by the entirety,
- Community property agreements,
- Community property with right of survivorship.
An estate lawyer is often called upon to help set up an estate plan that spares beneficiaries the aggravation and expense of probate.