Probate is a court-supervised legal process that involves validating a decedent’s Last Will and Testament, resolving their debts, and distributing their assets to beneficiaries. At our firm, we are often asked whether probate is required in Florida. The answer to this important question depends on a variety of factors. In this article, Jason Siegel, Esq, of The Siegel Law Firm, PA will discuss the specifics of when probate is necessary in Florida.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that oversees the distribution of a decedent’s estate. In a Florida probate, a court appointed legal representative (“Personal Representative”) ensures that the individual’s debts are settled, taxes are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to the estate’s beneficiaries.
How to Avoid Probate in Florida?
Probate is not always required in Florida. If an individual does the proper planning, then probate can be avoided saving beneficiaries both time and money. Here are some tips to avoid the probate process:
- Joint Ownership of Assets: If assets, such as real estate and bank accounts, are held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety, they can be automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate in Florida.
- Designated Beneficiaries: If an individual names beneficiaries on their assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death bank accounts, then the individual’s assets are able to pass directly to the named beneficiaries without probate. Note that this is true regardless of whether the individual has a Will or dies intestate (without a Will).
- Revocable Living Trusts: A Revocable Living Trust is a great way to avoid probate in Florida. Assets held in a revocable living trust can be transferred to beneficiaries without going through probate. The Trust document outlines how the assets are to be distributed. Note that it is still vitally important to make sure the individual’s assets are retitled in the name of the Trust or the Trust is the beneficiary on the individual’s assets.
When is Probate Necessary?
Probate is normally required in the following situations:
- There is no Named Beneficiaries on the Decedent’s Accounts: If the deceased person did not name beneficiaries on their various accounts, such as bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, then such accounts would have to go through the probate process in Florida.
- Real Estate titled in the Sole Name of the Decedent: If the deceased person owned real estate in their individual name, then the real estate will have to go through probate even if they had a valid Last Will and Testament. Note that there are several great ways to avoid probate on your real estate holdings with a little planning and legal counsel.
In Florida, the question of whether probate is required depends on various factors. If you have any questions please contact Jason Siegel, Esq., of The Siegel Law Firm, PA to see if probate is required or you have questions on how to avoid probate in Florida.