Is Probate Required for All Florida Estates?
Probate refers to the legal process in which a decedent’s will is proven. If they do not have a will, state intestate succession laws will apply to the estate.
Assets that must go through probate include individually owned real estate, bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. However, Florida probate is not necessary in cases where:
- The decedent did not have any real estate or property.
- The decedent’s assets are worth more than any outstanding debts.
- The decedent’s beneficiaries have been named on their bank or brokerage accounts or through transfer on death designations.
- The decedent co-owns the property with another person (like their spouse) or has a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.
- The decedent’s assets are in a living trust.
Avoiding Probate in Florida
In Florida, you can avoid the process if you create a solid estate plan while you’re still alive. Working with an experienced attorney, you can help your beneficiaries and estate avoid probate with:
- A living trust. A living trust is a legal document created by the trustor while they are alive that is given to the named beneficiaries once they die. You can create a trust and name yourself as trustee to control your assets via the trust while you’re alive, and then the assets will be automatically transferred.
- Joint property ownership. Your survivors can avoid probate if the property you have is jointly owned with another person as the surviving owner will then own the property. In Florida, there are two types of joint ownership: joint tenancy (which typically occurs when partners purchase property or open accounts together) and tenancy by entirety (which is similar to joint tenancy but is only available to married couples)
- Payable-on-death designations. When you open a bank account, you can designate a person who will control the money in your account upon your passing.
- Transfer-on-death deeds and registrations. When you register stocks and bonds or purchase real estate, you can also register a beneficiary who will inherit the account or deed upon your passing. It is important to note that while Florida does not allow for traditional transfer-on-death deeds, you can file a Lady Bird (or enhanced life estate deed), which is similar.
What Is the Simplified Probate Procedure?
Small estates can go through a simplified probate process, which is referred to as Summary Administration. An executor can petition to go through this abbreviated process if:
- The value of the estate is no more than $75,000.
- The decedent has been dead for no more than two years.
- The decedent’s will does not require administration as outlined in Florida Statute § 733.
Get Legal Help
At Dorcey Law Firm, our attorneys have decades of collective legal experience, and we are committed to offering our clients high-quality, comprehensive legal services. Known for our integrity, professionalism, proficiency, and compassion, we can help you or a loved one ensure their family is protected and their wishes are honored.
With our firm’s Auto-Pilot Planning Program, we help out clients keep their estate plans up to date, offer educational opportunities for you to learn more about estate planning (including ways you can avoid or simplify the probate and estate administration process), and other guidance and monitoring solutions for your estate plan. We also handle a variety of other legal matters including:
Need help from our probate and administration attorneys? Call (239) 309-2870 or reach out online today to schedule a free consultation.