Assets that are left in a Florida resident’s estate after he or she passes may be subject to probate. The goal of a probate proceeding is to validate a will or answer questions as to who has the strongest claim to receive some or all of a deceased person’s estate. If a person dies without a will, assets typically go to a spouse or a surviving child.
There are a few strategies that a person can use to avoid probate. For instance, it may be possible to hold assets outside of an estate by placing them in a trust. Items inside of the trust will be overseen or distributed by a trustee in accordance with instructions left by the deceased individual. Individuals who plan on passing property to anyone under the age of 18 may want to leave assets in a trust as minors cannot own or manage property on their own.
If a person attaches a beneficiary designation to an item, it will usually go directly to the beneficiary without the need for probate. Beneficiary designations are typically used to transfer ownership of retirement, bank or brokerage accounts in a timely manner. Individuals are encouraged to name alternate beneficiaries to minimize the chances that these or other assets revert back to a person’s estate.
Trusts and beneficiary designations may be powerful estate planning tools that help a person avoid probate. These tools might also help to minimize the chances of disputes between family members. An attorney may help a person learn more about which plan documents are worth creating and how to do so. If an individual has already created plan documents, a legal professional may be able to review them to see if they still meet that person’s needs.