|If you die in Florida with assets in your name alone, probate is necessary. The probate may be testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will). So what exactly is probate? It is the legal process of administering a decedent's assets, paying a decedent's debts and then passing the remaining assets to the decedent's heirs via a will or statute.
Probate is a complicated, lengthy procedure, averaging about nine months in Florida. If the decedent's assets are under $75,000 (excluding exempt assets like the homestead), then a summary administration may be filed. Summary administration is, in theory, a quicker procedure. Either way however, the time required is measured in months. Fees and expenses for probate range from 3% to 8% of the estate's value. Attorneys' fees usually are around 3%; and the personal representative (executor) can charge 3%. The other 1% to 2% is comprised of various accounting, filing, and administrative fees.
Probate starts with the filing of the petition for administration. Then, a personal representative is appointed and a will, if any, is admitted. Various documents required by the IRS, Department of Revenue, and Agency for Health Care Administration are then filed along with an inventory. A newspaper ad is run notifying creditors that they have three months within which to file a claim against the estate. After claims and expenses are paid, the remaining assets of the estate are finally distributed.
The probate process is often frustrating and stressful for surviving family members. Not only because of the time and expense involved, but because the family is grieving. We can show you a number of ways to avoid probate and allow your loved ones to receive their inheritances quickly and without stress.
Revocable Living Trusts
The revocable living trust (RLT) is a mechanism whereby the maker, called grantor, can avoid the time and expense of probate, provide for succession planning in the event of incapacity and minimize or reduce federal estate taxes. The grantor creates the trust and then funds it by re-titling assets in the name of the trust. These assets are then managed by the trustee or trustees.
During the grantor's lifetime, the assets are held for the benefit of the grantor and the grantor serves as trustee. Upon the grantor's death, the assets held in the trust are distributed to the grantor's heirs or held in trust according to the trust instructions. Since the successor trustee manages the trust upon the grantor's death, there is no need to go through probate to pass the assets out of the trust. In addition, should the grantor become incapacitated, a successor trustee can step in and manage the trust assets for the grantor. In this way, the successor trustee can provide for a line of succession. Finally, federal estate taxes can be minimized or reduced through the use of separate spouse trusts and A-B trusts.
We have the experience and expertise to design an RLT for you that will protect your assets for your enjoyment while you are alive and for the enjoyment of your heirs after you are gone. It will allow you to give your assets to the people you want, when you want, and in the manner you want. In short, it will help ensure your legacy.