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Can Florida probate court be effectively avoided?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Probate

The Florida probate courts play a very important role in the protection of individuals. They protect the legacy that someone leaves when they die by ensuring the proper distribution of their resources. They can hold people accountable when they break the law or violate estate planning documents. They can also protect the interests of beneficiaries and heirs by removing people from positions of authority when they abuse their power or holding them accountable when they diminish the value of an estate.

Careful estate planning can go a long way toward limiting conflict after someone dies. Is it also possible for someone to plan in a way that allows their loved ones to completely avoid probate court?

Small estates can bypass probate court

Florida does have special exceptions worked into the law that allow certain estates to forego formal probate oversight. Typically, there are rules limiting the assets that these estates can contain. Real property generally requires probate oversight, as do high-value estates. If the estate is worth $20,000 or less, then it may be possible to forgo formal probate proceedings.

People can keep certain assets out of probate court

In general, only the assets directly held in the name of one individual become the property of their estate when they die. Therefore, people can keep assets out of probate court by changing the official ownership of those assets.

They might add a spouse or a specific beneficiary as a co-owner. They could execute a deed adding someone to the title for their home, for example. They could also file paperwork with a financial institution adding someone as a co-owner on the account or allowing them to assume ownership after they die. Other people may keep assets out of probate court by transferring them into a trust. Assets held by a trust do not belong to an individual but rather the trust and are therefore not part of the probate process in most cases.

Probate court can delay the distribution of assets and can sometimes diminish the value of an estate by creating certain administrative costs. Still, many people may find probate oversight beneficial because it reduces the risk of misconduct and helps prompt better compliance with a written estate plan.

Learning about methods to keep assets out of probate court may help people put together more effective estate planning documents. The best probate minimization strategy differs depending on a testator’s personal wishes and family circumstances.