Spiro J. Verras Blog

Friday, August 16, 2019

Estate Planning for Smaller Estates

Will My Small Estate Need to Go Through Probate in Florida?

Some of us will have smaller sized estates. Perhaps you are just starting off in your career, single, or elderly, you may not have that many assets. Those with smaller sized estates may find themselves wondering whether they really need an estate plan and if so what that should be included within that plan. Our Tampa estate planning lawyers

explain the process for the administration of smaller estates in Florida and discuss what vital documents your estate, no matter what the size, should include.

Probate of Small Estates in Florida 

Probate can be a lengthy process that will cost your estate and heirs money and time. Recognizing the need to fast-track smaller estates, which in turn will reduce the fees, Florida has a separate probate process for small estates. To determine whether the estate qualifies as a small estate, you will first need to determine its value. Under Florida law, most personal property will be deemed exempt, meaning that it will not count towards the value of the estate. Exempt property may include household furniture and appliances worth up to $20,000, two cars, and some benefits.

Very small estates may qualify for disposition without administration. The exact threshold is set by the individual county but is typically around $6,000. The estate must contain just exempt personal property or property exempt from creditors, or worth less than the funeral and outstanding medical expenses. Estates valued at over $6,000 but less than $75,000 could qualify for summary administration, which will allow swift release of the assets.  

The Importance of an Estate Plan

The consequences of not having an estate plan can be similar no matter what the size of the estate. If you die without an estate plan, even if your assets are limited, you will have no say in the disposition of these assets. The court will need to pass down your assets in accordance with Florida law. For those who are not married or anyone with a loved one that is not their immediate heir, your loved ones may be excluded. Even further, your minor children will be unprotected unless you have a will naming a guardian.  

For these reasons, it is critically important that you create an estate plan that consists of at least a will, a living will to protect your healthcare needs, and one or more powers of attorney. An estate planning lawyer can help you to efficiently prepare these documents to protect yourself and your heirs.

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