Compassionate, Dedicated Florida Probate Attorney Here for You
Estate planning is a critical part of life. By preparing for your future, you can ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish and your loved ones will be protected.
However, sometimes, a person passes away before they get to go through the estate planning process. At that point, the court steps in and the estate goes into probate. Or, perhaps, they only had a will, and under Florida law, the estate must go into probate.
Whether you need help settling your loved one’s estate or you’d like to dispute it, you can call on a Florida probate lawyer to help you.
AUDRA SIMOVITCH, ESQ.
What Is Probate and how does it work in Florida?
Probate is a judicial process that your estate will go through once you pass away if you didn’t do any estate planning or you only had a will in place. A court will distribute your assets to the heirs listed in your will. If you don’t have a will, the court will decide who receives your assets, even if it wasn’t what you wanted. Keep in mind that probate is public, so people can find out about your financial affairs if they’d like.
If you have a will, then probate will be a lot simpler. During the proceedings, your executor or your lawyer will give the court your death certificate. Then, the court will authenticate your will and approve your executor so that they can begin to distribute your assets. In the process, your assets will be located and evaluated to determine their value. After that is completed, debts and taxes are then paid, and the rest of the value of the estate is distributed to your heirs.
Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming procedure. On average, it takes around six to nine months, but it could take many years if your estate is particularly complicated or there are disputes. This process can leave your loved ones exhausted, especially if someone is disputing your estate. Not having an estate plan in place can lead to rifts among your family members, which is why it’s critical to prepare ahead of time.
What Assets Go Through Probate?
If you don’t have a will in place, then all of your assets will go through probate. But even if you have a will, the following assets will typically go through a probate court:
- Sole ownership property: This is property that is only in your name.
- Partner-owned investment property: This is a property with two or more investors.
- Non-titled property: This is property you own that doesn’t have paperwork, like clothing and furniture.
- An inheritance where the beneficiary is deceased: The court will decide who gets what should your named beneficiary pass away before you.
You could potentially avoid probate for some of these. You’ll need to ask your Florida probate lawyer how.
How Do You Avoid Probate?
If you have a trust in place, then you will not have to go through the probate process. Creating a trust will also guarantee that your financial affairs are kept private. With a trust, you can say how you want your assets to be distributed. If you have a revocable trust, you can change it at any point up until your death. You may think that a trust is only for the wealthy, but in fact, estates of any size can use it to protect assets.
Another option is to give your assets to your loved ones while you’re still alive; this can have beneficial tax implications for your estate as well as help you avoid probate.
If you have a small estate valued at under $75,000, then probate is going to be simpler as well.
All of your assets do not have to go through probate. If you have assets where you name a beneficiary, like a life insurance policy, then you can avoid probate. In Florida, you can use the POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) options on titled property like real estate or a bank account to pay or transfer your assets to your beneficiary. Also, jointly titled property with survivor’s rights will go to a survivor after you die, so it doesn’t need to go through probate.
What Costs Are Associated With Probate?
When it comes to probate, you’ll need to pay for the following expenses:
- Court filing fees
- Probate lawyer fees
- Accountant fees
- Publications and notices fees
- Executor bond fees
- Out-of-state probate fees, if applicable
While some of those costs are set in stone, others, like accountant and probate lawyer fees, are flexible. You’ll need to find an experienced Florida probate lawyer and a knowledgeable accountant with reasonable fees. By meeting with different lawyers and accountants, you can compare fees and experience and decide which professionals to hire.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
A Florida probate lawyer can help you with the probate process in a number of different ways.
They can assist the executor or beneficiaries with tasks like paying debts and bills, resolving problems with income taxes, preparing and filing critical documents with the probate court, overseeing the estate’s checking account, identifying the estate’s assets, collecting the proceeds from life insurance policies, transferring and distributing the assets to beneficiaries, and getting appraisals for real estate property.
Oftentimes, people who are named executors or beneficiaries have never gone through the probate process before and will need help. It can be stressful to serve as the executor, especially if you’re working and have other responsibilities. By hiring a Florida probate lawyer, you can take the burden off your shoulders and ensure that everything is being done in the proper way.
With the Law Office of Audra Simovitch, you can be rest assured that you’re in good hands when it comes to the probate process. We will work with you on your estate planning goals and probate proceedings and answer any questions you may have along the way. Contact Audra today at 561-210-8464 or reach out online for a consultation.