Estate planning to reduce probate assets is a worthy goal. After all, you spend a lifetime working to acquire assets that can be passed on to upcoming generations. As you establish your legacy and contemplate the future of your loved ones, it is important to consider what to include in your estate planning portfolio. You can discuss this with an experienced attorney, and also learn what your loved ones will need to do after you pass away.
The thought of your estate going into probate may seem intimidating, causing you to seek an estate plan that avoids the probate process.
Taking extreme efforts to avoid probate may not be in the best interest of your heirs and beneficiaries.
Probate is not a bad word
In Florida, most estates go through the probate process. While you may not think you have many assets, a large number of people own houses and other valuable items (such as boats and cars) that create an estate worth more than the $10,000 or $75,000 thresholds that would otherwise qualify for abbreviated or summary probate, respectively.
Probate is, very simply, court oversight of an estate to ensure payment of debts according to statute, and the proper distribution of assets. When you have a valid estate plan in place, there is little the court has to do since most of the work will be delegated to your personal representative who will use the services of a probate attorney.
Ways to keep assets out of probate
There are certain aspects of an estate plan that can enable you to naturally avoid probate. Assets and accounts that generally do not have to go through the probate process include the following:
- Joint tenancy properties. If, for example, you and your spouse own a house together, and your spouse survives you, your spouse could inherit the house and it might not be considered a probate asset after considering all factors.
- Accounts with a designated beneficiary. Accounts in banks, retirement accounts, and similar financial accounts where a beneficiary designation is listed will keep that account out of probate. Bear in mind that beneficiary designations must be signed while you are alive and of sound mind. Jointly-owned financial accounts also generally pass to the surviving account owner.
- Living Trusts.
It may be possible to structure your assets so that they avoid probate, but it can make it challenging to give your loved ones exactly what you intend. Also, keep in mind that just because you manage to create a scenario where your estate avoids probate, this does not prohibit someone from contesting your will or forcing your estate into probate and trust litigation.
Rather than your intention being solely to avoid probate, your ultimate goal should be deciding what is needed in your particular estate plan after collaborating with an experienced estate planning attorney. Creating a comprehensive plan that reflects who you specifically want to inherit each of your assets is at the core of sound estate planning, and will accomplish your goal of reducing assets that go through the probate process. Call VanNess & VanNess, P.A. to obtain the answers you need regarding your estate planning needs.