Whether you have an estate plan or not at the time of your demise, your estate will pass on to someone or some entity. If you die without an estate plan (intestate), Florida laws will dictate how your assets are distributed. However, if you have an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to your wishes.
Probate is the process of organizing the decedent’s estate – auditing their assets, paying off debts and taxes and distributing what is left to the designated heirs as outlined in the decedent’s will. Probate can be a slow and costly process. Fortunately, you can avoid it by considering the following options:
Committing assets to joint ownership
Any property that is held under the joint tenancy with the right of survivorship does not go through probate. This means that upon your death, the property’s title is automatically passed on to the surviving owners. The decedent’s portion of the jointly-held property thus skips probate entirely.
This arrangement is quite common between spouses, but you can also make your children joint owners of your property. However, do keep in mind that making a child a joint owner amounts to gifting, which may attract taxation on the property in question.
Consider setting up a revocable trust
A revocable trust allows you to place certain assets into a trust during your lifetime for distribution to the designated beneficiaries upon your demise. A revocable trust is ideal for individuals with a sizable amount of assets. Just like assets under the joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, assets that are held in a trust are governed by the trust instrument and are passed down to the designated beneficiaries without going through probate.
Probate is a public process that is both resource and time-intensive. Fortunately, you can protect your estate from probate by incorporating these tools while creating your estate plan.