UNDERSTANDING PROBATE IN JACKSONVILLE
Most probate matters in Florida are supervised by a probate judge who must approve every detail of the estate administration. Florida probate can take a long time. Florida probate attorneys can help you through this probate process. Legacy Planning Law Group’s caring and committed team will be sensitive to your situation.
WHY YOU NEED A JACKSONVILLE ATTORNEY FOR FLORIDA PROBATE
Probate is part of a more extensive process called estate administration which handles the transfer of assets after death. Whether the decedent died with or without a will, their estate will have to be administered. Certain types of assets must be overseen by a judge to be transferred at death. In those situations, the estate will have to be probated.
Probate is a court process where a court order is needed to pass titled assets. Certain things happen in probate; the first is the appointment of a personal representative (also known as an executor). Once appointed, the personal representative has numerous responsibilities, such as:
- Gathering assets
- Notifying beneficiaries and creditors
- Paying debts
- Preparing asset inventories
- Filing required tax returns
- Distributing estate assets
- Closing out the estate
The probate court in Florida is involved every step of the way.
While some types of estate assets must go through probate, other types do not. In that situation, there is still an estate administration process to make sure the assets get transferred the way the decedent wanted.
The estate administrator plays a specific role in probate proceedings. Some required actions include:
- Organizing assets
- Notifying beneficiaries
- Giving creditors notice and a chance to file a claim
- Paying the decedent’s unpaid debts
- Preparing an inventory of assets
- Filing tax returns
- Distributing assets to the intended beneficiaries
HOW TO AVOID PROBATE IN FLORIDA
Because probate can be a lengthy, costly, and public process, many people choose to avoid it. Several legal strategies allow you to pass property to another person after death without going through probate in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.
ESTABLISH A JOINT TENANCY OR TENANCY BY THE ENTIRETY
Joint tenancy adds another person to your assets as an owner and allows your property to pass to them after your death without going through probate. Joint ownership between spouses is called tenancy by the entirety. With somebody other than your spouse, the asset would have to be owned in “joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.” However, there are pitfalls to this strategy. Some issues include subjecting the joint assets to claims (such as lawsuits) against your other joint owner. The joint asset could be sold against your will. This can be inconvenient when you are still alive and planning to use the assets.
ESTABLISH BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS
Florida law allows beneficiary designations to be used for financial accounts such as IRA’s and 401(K)’s, annuities and life insurance. Brokerage accounts can have a special kind of beneficiary designation called a transfer-on-death (TOD) and bank accounts can have something similar called payable-on-death (POD). Beneficiaries you name will get the account proceeds outside of probate.
There are problems associated with using beneficiary designations, including not being able to protect a beneficiary’s inheritance if they are irresponsible or have an addiction, or even if they are responsible they end up getting divorced or in a car accident lawsuit. Also, you can’t dictate who gets the account if the beneficiary dies before you do. Using a revocable living trust often is a much better approach to avoiding probate.
ESTABLISH A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST
A revocable living trust (RLT) is often the preferred method for avoiding probate. It is a legal document that allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to “hold” legal title to your assets while you are alive and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, you serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your benefit. You don’t give up any control because the trust is revocable. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee, who then continues to manage — or distribute — the assets held in trust.
A properly drafted Florida trust can accomplish many goals, including guardianship needs if you become incapacitated and helping family members avoid probate after you pass away. A revocable living trust in Florida can also protect your children’s inheritance from being mismanaged or affected by divorce and other lawsuits. Our experienced trust attorneys in Jacksonville, FL, can help you establish suitable trusts for your unique situation.
Legacy Planning Law Group helps you and your loved ones understand estate planning, elder law, post-death administration, and business planning in Duval County, Florida. If you’re interested in learning more about our legal services from our experienced Jacksonville, Florida, probate and estate administration attorneys, please don’t hesitate to contact us by booking a call today.
At Legacy Planning Law Group, we work with you to the create a plan that protects your family and preserves your legacy so you can have confidence about what lies ahead and finish the race strong.