If you are like many people, you are asking yourself – “how do I avoid probate in Florida?” The answer varies depending on your situation, but here are some of the common solutions…

How Do I Avoid Probate in Florida? Here’s The Answer…

A Living Trust

Most of your assets can be put into a living trust. When you set up a living trust, you name yourself as the trustee and you name someone as the successor trustee. You then transfer ownership of your assets to the living trust.

While your assets are owned by the living trust, they are governed by the terms laid out in your trust document. Once you die, control of the trust goes to your successor trustee and they will transfer ownership of the assets in your trust to their beneficiaries as dictated by the trust, bypassing probate proceedings.

Joint Ownership

Joint ownership is when two people own a property, for example, if you own your home jointly with your brother, then your brother has “right of survivorship.” This means that when you die, ownership of the property transfers automatically to your brother.

There are two types of joint ownership in Florida – joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety.

Joint tenancy is the exact definition we shared above, but in joint tenancy each property owner must own an equal share. Tenancy by the Entirety is similar to joint tenancy, however, it applied to married couples.

Payable Upon Death Benefits

Payable on death benefits is a designation that can be used for bank accounts. When you designate an account as “payable on death” you maintain control of those accounts, but you also name a beneficiary to receive the contents of the account upon your death.

Transfer Upon Death Deeds

Transfer on death deeds are similar to payable on death designation, but this designation applies to real estate. Not all states recognize transfer upon death deeds – Florida does not. Florida does, however, have something called an “enhanced life estate deed” that works in a similar way to the transfer upon death deed.

Transfer Upon Death Registration For Securities

Transfer upon death registration for securities is similar to a transfer on death registration for a bank account, however, it applies to brokerage accounts – stocks and bonds. When you designate a transfer upon death beneficiary for your securities, upon your death, the beneficiary will be able to transfer the contents of your securities accounts to themselves.

Transfer Upon Death Registration For Vehicles

Transfer upon death registration for vehicles is the same premise and allows for the transfer of motor vehicles to a beneficiary. Not all states recognize a transfer upon death registration for a vehicle, though – Florida does not.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Another way to avoid the lengthy probate procedure is by going through a simplified probate procedure instead.

Simplified probate procedures are also referred to as “small estate probate.”

To qualify for small estate probate you must meet one of the two following groups of criteria –

  1. You own no real estate and any property you own is exempt from claims from creditors except for the amount that is needed to pay for final expenses and the last two months of illness expenses. In this case, the court will transfer your property to the designated beneficiaries through a letter or court application.
  2. The value of your whole estate (minus the value of property that is exempt from creditor claims) is not over $75,000 (this amount differs by state, so check with your state regulations before assuming that your estate does or does not qualify for summary administration) OR if the person who is deceased has been dead for over two years.

To begin simplified probate procedures, you need to file a petition for simplified probate process, this is referred to as “Summary Administration.”

What is Summary Administration?

Summary administration is a type of probate but it is shorter than the full probate process.

During summary administration, the executor of the estate files a petition for summary administration. In this petition, you must state that the estate is eligible for summary administration AND you must list the assets of the deceased, the value of those assets, and who is to inherit each of the assets.

If the deceased had any creditors, you must also send them notification of the petition.

Next, you must attach a copy of the deceased’s will to the petition.

If the deceased has a surviving spouse, that spouse must sign the petition, as must all beneficiaries of the estate.

If a beneficiary does not sign the petition, they must be officially served with a notice letting them know that the petition has been filed.

Are You Looking For a Probate Attorney in or Around Tampa/St. Pete?

If you have any questions about the probate process or how you can arrange your own estate to avoid probate when possible, it’s always best to talk with an attorney. An estate planning attorney can help you to understand your options and help you to put everything into place so that there is no question about the legality of your final wishes and the future of your estate.

If you are looking for a St. Pete or Tampa probate attorney, Weidner Law can help. Call us today at 727-954-8752 and let us know how we can help you!

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