Strategies for avoiding probate in Florida

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Estate Planning

Probate, the legal process to settle a deceased person’s estate, often involves time and expense that many wish to avoid. Several effective strategies can help minimize or bypass the probate process altogether.

These strategies provide various options for individuals and families to manage their estates according to their specific needs and circumstances.

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship

One straightforward way to avoid probate is to hold property jointly with the right of survivorship. When one owner dies, the property automatically passes to the surviving owner without going through probate. This method commonly applies to real estate, bank accounts and other significant assets. It ensures that property transfers quickly and efficiently, sidestepping the need for court involvement.

Designated beneficiary accounts

Financial accounts like retirement accounts, life insurance policies and annuities allow the designation of beneficiaries. Upon the account holder’s death, these assets transfer directly to the named beneficiaries. This transfer occurs outside of probate, facilitating immediate access to funds, which can help cover living expenses and funeral costs.

Revocable living trusts

Creating a revocable living trust is a popular way to avoid probate. Individuals place their assets in a trust, which they can manage during their lifetime. Upon their death, a designated trustee manages and distributes the assets according to the trust’s terms, without probate court involvement. Trusts not only avoid probate but also provide privacy and flexibility in managing and distributing assets.

Payable-on-death and transfer-on-death designations

Florida law allows the use of payable-on-death designations for bank accounts and transfer-on-death designations for securities. These designations allow the asset to pass directly to the beneficiary upon the owner’s death, without probate. It is a simple, straightforward process that requires completing a form provided by the financial institution or brokerage.

Enhanced life estate deeds

An enhanced life estate deed, often called a “Lady Bird” deed in Florida, allows property owners to retain control over their property during their lifetime, including the right to sell or mortgage the property. Upon their death, the property passes to the named beneficiaries without probate. This type of deed helps maintain control over the property while ensuring a smooth transition upon death.

By planning ahead, individuals can ensure that their assets are distributed smoothly and according to their wishes, without the potential delays and costs associated with probate.