VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Avoiding probate with modest estates

People who have small estates in Florida might want to help their intended beneficiaries to avoid the probate process. It is possible for small estate owners to plan their estates in such a way that their assets may be transferred after their deaths outside of the probate court.

People may list their intended heirs as beneficiaries on their investment accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Because these accounts and policies have named beneficiaries, they do not have to go through the probate process and are passed directly to the named beneficiaries upon the deaths of the account and policyholders.

When people have real property and vehicles that they would like to pass to their beneficiaries outside of the probate process, there are some options. Unlike some states, Florida does not allow transfer-on-death deads for real property. However, the state does allow the transfer of real property outside of probate with the use of an enhanced life estate deed. This type of deed allows the property owner to remain in the home and to maintain complete control of the property while they are alive and then transfers to the beneficiaries that are named on the deed documents.

People who want to avoid probate may benefit by consulting with experienced estate planning lawyers. The attorneys might advise their clients about the various ways that they might be able to transfer their assets after they die to their intended beneficiaries. The lawyers may help their clients and their clients' families to minimize the potential tax consequences and to avoid the costly probate process. The lawyers may draft the appropriate documents and deeds for their clients in a manner that might make the transfer process much smoother, faster and more private. Attorneys may also help their clients to update their existing estate plans when their circumstances change.

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