Using Estate Planning Tools to Avoid Probate

If you’re new to the world of estate planning, you have probably seen the term “probate” come up quite often. If you’ve never gone through probate, you should consider yourself lucky. Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed. Many families work hard on their estate plans in an effort to limit the potential impact probate will have on a family, but sometimes an air-tight will isn’t enough.

Going Through Probate

During probate, the court will oversee the administration of the deceased person’s estate. This process starts with validating the will. A handwritten note may help influence the court’s decisions, but it’s only valid if it’s been signed by two witnesses. In Florida, the will doesn’t necessarily have to be notarized. However, in order to avoid requiring the two witnesses to testify that the will is valid, a will must be notarized to make it self-proving. Once the will is deemed valid, it will serve as the legal document guiding the distribution of assets.

The court will appoint an executor who will be responsible for managing the estate during probate. They are required to identify and gather the decedent’s assets, notify creditors and beneficiaries, pay outstanding debts or taxes, then distribute the remaining assets as specified in the will. A well-organized estate may be able to make relatively quick work of these tasks, but the more complicated the estate, the more likely it will face difficulties during probate.

Why Should We Avoid Probate?

While probate is a necessary legal process in many cases, there are many reasons so many people seek to avoid it entirely. The main disadvantage of probate is that it can be a very time-consuming process. It can take weeks to years to complete. These delays can lead to financial hardships as the executor works to itemize all the assets and beneficiaries await their inheritance.

Probate can also be costly. Everything from the mounting fees from the courthouse proceedings to property appraisals can ultimately impact the value of the estate. For estates with additional property abroad, or in another jurisdiction, there could be an entirely different process–compounding the fees and potentially the time it takes to get through probate. 

For many families, the idea of their loved one’s estate being public record is concerning. Probate is a public process, so the details about the estate, including its value and how it was distributed become a part of the public record. This lack of privacy can also lead to family disputes. The proceedings sometimes lead to beneficiaries having disagreements regarding how assets are distributed, which can strain family relationships during this difficult time. 

Creating a Strategy

After working hard your entire life, the last thing you want is for the government to oversee your asset distribution. In order to do this, every individual needs to plan well in advance to ensure that their assets are protected. It’s important to remember that estate planning is for everyone, and there are many legal strategies that will preserve the legacy you’ve created.

Working with an estate planning attorney is your first line of defense against the potential drawbacks of probate. An effective estate planning attorney will help organize and examine the specifics of your estate and make recommendations like establishing a trust, gifting strategies, and beneficiary designations to accomplish this goal. Every estate is unique and the estate planning professionals at Zamora Hillman & Villavicencio Attorneys at Law are ready to provide guidance. Schedule your free consultation by calling (305) 285-0285.

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Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio

Our firm deals with legal matters involving your loved ones, and our familial operation is prepared to give you caring and effective counsel during what might be a difficult or emotional time.

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