How to Keep Your Estate Out of Probate

The legal team at Waserstein & Nunez believes in a painless and straightforward estate planning approach. It’s imperative to have the right plan in place and to make sure all of your wishes are in order to be properly fulfilled. Unfortunately, the estate planning process has plenty of bumps in the road, especially if you don’t know where to look.

Probate doesn’t always disrupt your plans, but the process is an unnecessary step that exposes every aspect of your estate to risk you shouldn’t otherwise have to concern yourself with. Once the information held within your estate is made public in the courtroom, all bets are off. Anyone from heirs to beneficiaries to family members to close friends mentioned in your estate can contest the details and claim to know your wishes better than your plan does.

The right estate planning attorney will walk you through the steps you can take to avoid probate. We want to give you some key tips to get your plan in place to be carried out without the invasion of privacy that comes with the court process.

Put trust in your estate

The first tip you’ll hear from an advisor is to set up a trust to avoid probate. Properly-established trusts don’t need to go through the probate process as the details are legally held and give designations directly to the beneficiaries you’ve chosen. Wills automatically enter the probate process.

There are several different types of trusts with the main two being revocable and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust is a living trust that evolves as you see fit and as circumstances change over the course of your life. This means you can place assets into the trust and later take them out if you need to use, sell, exchange, or do anything else with them. Irrevocable trusts are essentially a fortress for your assets. You will transfer assets into the control of the trust as designated in your trust documents and while you maintain legal control of those assets you cannot remove them from the trust. This means whatever wishes you detail and set forward in the trust must be followed and cannot be altered later on without penalty.

Properly fund your trust

One important distinction to understand is that trusts don’t automatically avoid probate. Only properly-funded trusts avoid probate. “Properly-funded” may seem like a financial term, but, in reality, this just means you must transfer any asset detailed in the trust into the name of the trustee and not remove the assets or change those terms without a thorough review.

For instance, if you detail in your trust that you intend to leave a piece of property to an heir through your trust but fail to transfer the property into the trust, your trust is not “properly-funded.” In this instance, the property in question would have to go through probate to ensure the proper and legal transfer.

Detail beneficiaries on all accounts

Even the most intensive estate plans may miss a few important details here or there. You should ensure all of your accounts, whether they are medical, financial, or any other account, have designated beneficiaries where possible. Many financial and retirement accounts have “payable-on-death” clauses. This means you designate a beneficiary to receive payment at the time of your death. These clauses supersede any estate plan and are processed without being exposed to probate.

You should make sure your attorney understands the law in your state as some accounts aren’t permitted to have these clauses in them. For instance, Florida does not allow vehicles to be transferred through a payable-on-death clause within the title of your vehicle. This information will need to be detailed in a trust or other form of an estate plan.

Establish joint ownership

If you are married, estate planning can be a smoother process when you establish joint ownership of certain assets. Assets like vehicles, houses, property and other key assets can make use of a “right of survivorship.” This means your surviving spouse will assume ownership of any of these assets at the time of your death.

This is a great option to secure property, vehicles, and other high-value assets without having to do the extra work of transferring them into a trust.

Hire the right attorney

At the end of the day, estate planning on your own can be a challenge. There are plenty of laws governing the transfer of assets in Florida, so it’s important to have the right attorney by your side that has the experience and know-how to help you get your plan in place.

At Waserstein & Nunez, we have decades of experience helping clients get the most out of their plans. If you want to avoid probate or have other estate planning goals in Florida, contact our legal team and we’ll get you on track.

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Waserstein & Nunez, PLLC

Waserstein & Nunez, PLLC is a boutique law firm with extensive and varied experience of a large law firm. They are geared towards deal-making and solutions but always preparing and ready for trial or Plan B.

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