Four Ways You Can Avoid Probate
Probate is the legal process of identifying assets and liabilities of someone who has passed. It ensures any debts of the estate are settled, and that those who inherit are the rightful heirs. Unfortunately, it can often be a time consuming and potentially costly process. As part of estate planning, there are ways to streamline and even avoid the probate proceedings, while still ensuring those closest to you benefit from your estate.
Under Chapter 733 of the Florida Probate Code, probate assets are listed as those owned by the decedent prior to their death and include:
- Real estate and land holdings, whether owned by the decedent alone or with another party;
- Personal property, such as cars, boats, furnishings, artwork, and antiques;
- Business assets and interests;
- Financial accounts, including annuities, retirement accounts, and stocks;
- Insurance policy benefits payable to your estate.
Without a legally drafted and executed will in place, these assets will be distributed per the rules of intestate succession, which divides the estate according to familial relationships. While having a will allows you to specify those you wish to inherit from your estate, all probate assets will still be subject to approval from the court before they can be distributed.
Non-probate assets are those the decedent owns that are exempt from probate court proceedings, often by provisions that allow for automatic succession upon death. The following outlines four ways in which you can turn probate assets into non-probate assets:
- Designate Accounts As Payable On Death: This is one of the simplest ways to avoid probate. You can designate retirement funds, stocks, savings accounts, and other financial accounts as payable on death (POD) simply by visiting your financial institution and filling out a POD form designating a beneficiary.
- Title Property With Survivorship Rights: Under Section 689.15 of the Florida Statutes, you can title property with another as joint tenants with the rights of survivorship (JTROS)., which gives each owner an undivided interest in the property which passes to the other on death.
- Establish A Trust: A revocable or living trust allows you to transfer property and assets to a person or group of people prior to your death, while still allowing you the freedom to use and control those assets.
- Make Gifts of Assets: One of the simplest ways to avoid probate is by giving away property and assets while you are still alive. Depending on the overall size of your estate, IRS guidelines allow you to gift up to $14,000 per year in assets to family and friends without being taxed.
Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help
If you need help with estate planning or want to learn more about how to avoid probate, contact Hancock & Associates, P.A. today. Our Florida attorneys can advise you on the documents you need and the tools you can use to help ensure both you and your loved one’s rights and interests are protected.