The death of a loved one is incredibly difficult, with many emotional complications to deal with. There are also numerous financial and legal processes which must take place. One of these processes is the probate – or the opening and closing of one’s probate estate in court. The probate process takes both time and money. Thankfully, the resources and frustration associated with the probate process are generally avoidable. The key to avoiding probate is to work with the experienced probate attorneys at Kitroser & Associates. We are dedicated to working with you and your family to establish an appropriate estate plan and avoid probate. As the South Florida leaders in estate planning, our reputation speaks for itself.
Though you may have heard that the probate process should be avoided at all costs, and good estate planning generally helps you avoid probate, probate exists for very sound reasons. Indeed, the key to understanding why probate exists is also the key to understanding how to avoid it. Many people die without a will or any estate planning document in place. Others pass away with a basic will, or maybe a will with a number of amendments or codicils. If this occurs, the State of Florida wants to insure that the appropriate individuals or organization receive the assets of the decedent. As part of this process, the estate must publish a Notice to Creditors under Florida law. This allows creditors of the estate to file claims against the estate before an inheritance is paid out. The probate court oversees the process, including determining whether there is a valid will, appointing a personal representative, assessing what assets a person had at the time of death which must pass through the probate process, determining whether rules of intestate succession or surviving spouse share must apply, determining which creditors must be paid, and then determining what terms of a will are applicable given these considerations. As you can imagine, this is a complex process, but one that is necessary to see Florida laws are followed.
Generally, only the probate assets of an individual make up the probate estate. In turn, the probate court will generally only process and distribute the assets of the probate estate. Probate assets are those assets which are owned by the decedent, personally, and do not otherwise pass by operation of law. For instance, joint bank accounts and insurance policies generally have contractual provisions which pass personal interests in those assets to another person at the time of the decedent’s death. These are not probate assets, if properly documented. Interest in property like houses and vehicles, on the other hand, will generally count as probate assets – unless the interest is not held by the decedent but by a trust or other legal entity. The more probate assets in a probate estate, the longer and more complicated the probate process.
The best way to avoid probate is to have a solid estate plan in place. As previously indicated, the less probate assets you have, the smaller the probate process will be – to the point that probate can essentially be avoided. Again, the only way to avoid probate is to work with our experienced Palm Beach probate attorneys who proactively craft an appropriate estate plan. Some necessary estate planning steps include:
Clients throughout South Florida rely on our reputable probate attorneys to serve as their estate planning counsel. We assist you in forming a solid estate plan and avoiding probate.
Serving Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Juno Beach, Singer Island, Tequesta, Hobe Sound, Lake Park, and other areas throughout South Florida. To schedule a free consultation, call 561-721-0600 or contact us online.
The North Palm Beach Estate Planning Lawyers of Kitroser & Associates, welcome clients from the cities of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach, Jupiter, Tequesta, Juno Beach, Singer Island, Lake Park, Hobe Sound, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Lake Worth, as well as all of Palm Beach County, Martin County and South Florida.