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Will a Last Will and Testament help me to avoid probate?

Probate is the process by which the court distributes your assets to your heirs. In the state of Florida, as elsewhere across the country, probate can be a costly and time consuming process. Probate involves both court fees and attorney’s fees, and may tie up your assets for several months or potentially even years as the court works to distribute your assets either in accordance with your will or per the laws of intestacy. Fortunately, with some advance planning, there are ways in which you can avoid probate. A thorough estate plan can allow your assets to pass to your heirs without added expense or unnecessary delays. Our Tampa estate planning lawyers discuss several options for avoiding the probate process in Florida below.

Wills and Probate

It is first important to clear up a common misconception–creating a will does not help you to avoid probate. A Last Will and Testament needs to be proven by the court, which will require court hearings, and your assets will need to go through the probate process. Your estate may be diminished by the court costs and, depending on the complexity of your assets or whether any challenges are made by heirs, the probate process could take years. To avoid probate, you must do more than create just a will alone.

Name Beneficiaries on Your Accounts

One of the easiest steps you can take to avoid probate is to name a beneficiary on all of your accounts which allow it. Many financial accounts allow you to designate a beneficiary who will directly receive your assets upon your death. Eligible accounts include bank accounts, 401k plans, IRA accounts, brokerage accounts, and more. You can contact your financial institution and fill out a simple form to ensure your assets pass without probate from these eligible accounts.

Create a Trust

Forming a trust is the best way to pass down your assets without the need for court involvement. To create a trust, you will need the help of an estate planning lawyer who will set up the legal entity and help you to transfer ownership of your assets into the trust. You will incur some expense in setting up the trust and retitling your assets, but these costs should be far less than the expense of probate. Upon your death, assets held by the trust pass seamlessly to your heirs without cost or delay. These are just two of the many ways to avoid probate in the state of Florida. Consult with a Florida estate planning lawyer for more assistance with your individual estate plan today.