6 Ways to Avoid Probate and Preserve Your Estate’s Wealth in Florida

how to avoid probate

When you’ve spent your entire life working hard, saving diligently, and building a legacy to leave behind, the last thing you want is for a chunk of your estate to be eaten up by lengthy legal proceedings and unnecessary fees when you’re gone. But that’s exactly what probate can do.

Probate is the court-supervised process for distributing an estate after someone passes away, whether or not they have a valid will. Here in Florida, the average probate procedure lasts a lengthy 9-12 months before loved ones receive their inheritance.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid probate and ensure that your hard-earned wealth is preserved for those you care about most. In this blog post, our estate planning attorneys explore six savvy strategies Floridians can use to bypass the probate process and keep more of their estate’s value in the hands of their beneficiaries.

1. Summary Administration — The Florida Shortcut

Florida has a nifty little secret called Summary Administration, which is essentially a streamlined version of probate. If your estate is valued at less than $75,000 (not including your protected homestead real estate), you might be able to take advantage of this probate shortcut. It’s faster, simpler, and can save your loved ones a ton of time and money in the long run.

2. Living Trusts — The Ultimate Probate Avoidance Tool

One of the most popular ways to steer clear of probate is by setting up a living trust. Think of it as a super-powered will that lets you maintain control of your assets while you’re alive but seamlessly transfers them to your beneficiaries when you’re gone. You can put just about anything in a living trust – real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, you name it. Plus, it’s a lot more private than a will that goes through probate.

3. Joint Ownership — Passing Property Without the Probate Hassle

Another clever way to avoid probate is through joint ownership, especially if you’re married. In Florida, married couples can own property as “tenants by the entirety,” which means when one spouse passes away, the other automatically inherits the property – no probate required.

It’s like having a built-in estate plan! Just keep in mind that if you’re in a second marriage or have kids from a previous relationship, you might want to consider other options to ensure your property ends up where you want it to.

4. Florida’s “Lady Bird” Deeds — A Unique Probate Avoidance Strategy

Florida has a special type of deed called a “Lady Bird” deed (also known as an Enhanced Life Estate Deed) that lets you transfer your real estate to a beneficiary upon your death while still maintaining control during your lifetime.

If you change your mind about who gets the property, no problem – you can update the deed without even notifying the beneficiary.

5. Transfer-on-Death and Payable-on-Death Designations

For stocks, bonds, and bank accounts, Florida allows you to set up transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD) designations. This means the assets will automatically transfer to your named beneficiary when you pass away, without any pesky probate proceedings. It’s a simple, straightforward way to ensure your loved ones receive your financial assets as quickly and easily as possible.

6. Working with a Lawyer: Your Partner in Estate Planning

While these probate avoidance strategies are powerful tools, navigating the complex world of estate planning can still feel daunting. That’s where a knowledgeable probate lawyer comes in. At Vollrath Law, our attorneys are here to guide you through the process, ensuring your estate plan is tailored to your unique needs and goals.

We’ll work closely with you to understand your wishes, assess your assets, and develop a comprehensive plan that maximizes your probate avoidance while minimizing potential pitfalls. Whether you’re considering a living trust, exploring joint ownership options, or curious about Florida’s “Lady Bird” deeds, we have the experience to help you make informed decisions.

Plus, we’ll be there to support your loved ones when the time comes. So, don’t go it alone – partner with the estate planning professionals at Vollrath Law and give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowing your legacy is in good hands. Schedule a consultation today, and let’s start crafting an estate plan that protects your wealth, honors your wishes, and sets your loved ones up for a brighter tomorrow.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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