With a little careful planning, you may be able to avoid the probate question all together. Avoiding probate saves money and greatly reduces the strain placed on your family by time in court. A meeting with an estate-planning attorney can help you figure out how to structure your estate so that probate is not necessary, no matter how large the value of the estate. The following is a list of estate-planning tools that can help you avoid having to go through the probate process. Be careful replying on some of these because they may expose you to unnecessary risk of loss of the assets due to litigation. If you are interested in protecting assets and avoiding probate contact us to discuss your specific needs.
1. Living Trusts: Living trusts (also called an "inter vivos" trust) is a trust that is created while you are alive, rather than one created upon your death. Living trusts are great vehicles to avoid the lengthy and expensive probate process.
2. Joint Ownership: If you own property jointly with someone else, and this ownership includes the "right of survivorship," then the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies. An asset that is owned by two or more people in joint tenancy is not required to go through probate.
In Florida, the following forms of joint ownership are available: 1) Joint tenancy. Property owned in joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies. No probate is necessary. Joint tenancy often works well when couples acquire real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or other valuable property together. 2) Tenancy by the entirety. This form of joint ownership is like joint tenancy, but is allowed only for married couples in Florida.
3. Payable-on-Death Bank Accounts: In Florida, you can add a "payable-on-death" (POD) designation to bank accounts such as savings accounts or certificates of deposit. You still control all the money in the account - your named beneficiary has no rights to the money, and you can spend it all if you want. At your death, the beneficiary can claim the money directly from the bank, without probate court proceedings.
4. Transfer-on-death Securities: Florida lets you register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death (TOD) form. If you do so, the beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically upon your death. No probate court proceedings will be necessary.
If you have questions about probate, asset protection, or estate planning contact the a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer today at (904) 685-1200.
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