Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process in Florida by dictating when, where and how to distribute a person's assets after their death. Surviving family members and other interested parties can trigger a probate process over the distribution of the deceased person's estate.
However, many people do not take advantage of the steps that are available to avoid Florida probate. Each estate is different and what works best depends upon many factors. Still, there are four basic ways to avoid probate:
Sell all Florida property
If the benefactor isn't a Florida resident but owns property in the Sunshine State, they could face ancillary probate, which is a secondary probate proceeding in addition to their home state. It might not make sense to some but gifting their Florida property to children or other beneficiaries could help them avoid Florida probate.
Joint ownership with rights of survivorship
By adding another owner to a property’s deed or bank and investment accounts, a person can avoid Florida probate as all property will go to the co-owner(s). Spouses in Florida can fill out a special form called “tenancy by the entirety” to pass along these assets.
Beneficiary designations for life estate deeds
Assets such as IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement accounts avoid probate by using beneficiary designations. Florida also allows the following:
- POD account: “Payable on death" account will enable people to name beneficiaries for bank accounts.
- TOD account: “Transfer on death” account for passing along non-retirement investment accounts.
- Ladybird Deed: Also called an “enhanced life estate deed,” which allows a person to retain ownership of Florida real estate for their lifetime and pass it along to beneficiaries after their death avoiding probate.
Revocable living trust
This written agreement in an estate plan enables a person to control their assets while they are alive, if they become incapacitated and after they die. The trust will also keep a person’s estate plan from public scrutiny as it places the plan outside probate court records, which are public documents.
Seek legal expertise for probate options
Probate proceedings can be lengthy and costly, and they make specific details of a person’s estate open to public scrutiny by going through the courts. Seeking the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney here in Florida can help bring a smooth transition after the death of a loved one and honor their final wishes.