Probate proceedings after death can occur whether a person dies with or without a will. Terms of the will, and the nature and size of the decedent’s estate govern whether their estate might be probated and how it will be distributed. Avoiding probate in Florida can be done in different ways, even when the decedent has a will.
Revocable living trust
For purposes of a living trust, the maker of the will also creates a trust and designates themselves as trustee. A declaration is then made that at the time of their death, everything in the trust passes to the successor trustee of the trust. The successor trustee then distributes the trust assets in accordance with the terms of the living trust. Care must be taken to transfer all real and personal property into the living trust. Anything not titled in the name of the living trust can be subject to probate. For any estate, a properly established, executed and administered living trust can assure privacy.
This is perhaps the simplest way of avoiding probate in Florida. Any real estate owned by two or more persons can be held in what is known as joint tenancy. When one of the joint tenants passes away, their interest in the real estate automatically passes to the other joint tenant(s) without the necessity of probate. Joint tenancies can also be held in bank, checking and investment accounts. However, these joint tenancy accounts may not be the wisest way to avoid probate.
Pay on death
Banks also offer pay on death designations that allow funds to transfer to a designated individual upon the death of the named account holder. Until the time of death, the named account holder retains complete control of the account. They can change named beneficiaries at any time so long as they are legally competent. Care should be taken with these accounts. Should the beneficiary predecease the owner without a new beneficiary being named, the account becomes part of the decedent’s probate estate. More than one beneficiary can be named.
Other planning alternatives are available for avoiding probate in Florida. At a minimum, you’ll want to consult with our office before you begin making transfers or changes, particularly if a will and revocable living trust are involved. Indeed probate can be avoided in Florida. Preparations need to be done correctly so that your objectives are met. Call us to set an appointment to talk about your situation. We’ll discuss an individualized plan for you.