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We have all likely heard probate horror stories.  Probate actions that took years to complete, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on taxes, and family members that received nothing from their loved one’s estate.  It is critical that Floridians understand what assets must go through probate, and which do not, so that you can prepare your estate plan accordingly.  With smart planning, you can minimize or completely eliminate the need for probate so that your heirs can receive your assets quicker and without the need to pay hefty court fees.

Assets that Do Not Go Through Probate

There are several categories of assets that can passed down to the new owner without the need for probate court administration.  Common categories of nonprobate assets include:

  • Assets held in a trust:  A valid living trust will allow the assets within it to pass to the new trustee without the need for court involvement.  A thorough estate plan should almost always include a trust.  With a trust, you can transfer assets like your home, vehicle, and bank accounts.  Upon your death, your trustee will manage the assets per the terms of the trust, allowing your beneficiaries to receive your assets quickly and smoothly.
  • Assets that have a designated beneficiary:  Your retirement accounts and life insurance generally require that you name a designated beneficiary.  These assets will transfer to the named beneficiary without the need for probate.
  • Assets held in joint tenancy:  Property owned by more than one person, like a home or bank account, will generally transfer ownership in whole to the co-owner without the need for probate.

If your estate consists of entirely nonprobate assets, it should not need to be probated.  This can often be accomplished through the use of one or more trusts.  Further, estates without assets can be finalized without administration, and those valued at less than $75,000 in Florida may receive a swift summary administration.  For assistance with creating an estate plan that minimizes your probate exposure, and in turn saves your heirs money and time, consult with a Florida estate planning lawyer as soon as possible.