Estate planning in Florida is a complicated process that can overwhelm individuals. As a result, surviving family members may wish for the courts to decide who gets the assets. However, doing this can lead to lost assets in probate court proceedings and cost your family a lot of money.
What gets passed directly to beneficiaries?
A good place to start when estate planning is looking at what gets passed immediately to surviving family members. These are usually accounts that have you designate a beneficiary in the process of setting them up, such as:
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts that have a payable-on-death designation
- Some retirement accounts
- Some real estate
These things don’t have to go through the probate court to get passed down. Unfortunately, this means everything else in your estate – investments, items, cars, etc. – must go through a formal probate process.
How are different assets handled?
Individual assets will be some of the first things to go into probate. These can be things of high value that didn’t have a co-signer – such as boats, business interests, stocks, etc. – or just the items you kept around the house, like art collections or electronics.
Tenant-in-common assets include assets in your name and another person’s name. The dual ownership doesn’t apply if the tenant-in-common was a spouse but rather if it was an investment property of some kind.
These assets immediately go through probate and can be much harder to settle. Any purchases left out of a trust or without a designation can also take a long time to move through the probate process.
Preparing for probate
There are ways to avoid your belongings or accounts going into probate – such as setting up a trust, passing down your items while you’re alive, or leaving a detailed estate plan. Only know how to divide and distribute your estate, but getting a head start on it is better.