Write, email or call: 954-979-8783
When someone dies who is the sole owner of property ("property" includes all assets, not just real estate), then that item of property
no longer has an owner. Probate is the legal process, a court action, in which a judge orders the transfer of the asset to a beneficiary.
The "last will and testament" is the instructions of the decedent telling the judge, through this writing, who is supposed to
get the asset. If there is no will (an "intestate estate"), then the State of Florida, through its laws, sets out who the
beneficiary or beneficiaries should be.
Florida's probate laws are efficient. Their purpose and intent is to provide for an orderly process of verifying creditors' claims, making sure debts are paid,
providing protections for spouses and minor dependents, verifying that the "last will and testament" is indeed the actual most recent
("last") wishes of the decedent, and so forth. Sometimes it's a good idea not to avoid probate! But other
times this process, which uses generic rules that have to apply to everyone, in all kinds of circumstances, is
more time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive than may be needed.
A will is not a certificate of title. It is not "self-executing". It is merely instructions to the judge. To avoid probate, what is needed is
to make sure that upon a person's death, there is no asset that does not have an owner. There are many ways to do this, with varying pros and
cons for each. A revocable living trust is one way, and it has other benefits, but it's not a panacea and setting up
a trust also may be more expensive and cumbersome than you need or desire.
A beneficiary designation on an account ("pay on death") is another way to do this. So is joint ownership with right of
survivorship, but that might not be a good idea for other reasons, such as what happens if you change your mind, and the joint owner does not
agree with you.
There are some pitfalls in doing this yourself and making these decisions without guidance. For example, what happens if a
designated beneficiary, or the "remainderman" on an enhanced life estate deed ("ladybird deed"),
dies or becomes disabled before the original owner of the property dies?
What happens if the original owner is not then able to make a change (for example, the owner is ill or there was just no time.) What
happens if the beneficiary designations are unclear? These can get complicated with primary and contingent beneficiaries. Do multiple
beneficiaries take title as tenants in common, or jointly, with survivorship? If an intended beneficiary dies, should all or part of his or her
share go to his or her children, or to someone else?
What is the asset worth? Call your lawyer. it's not worth making a mistake, and preventing problems almost always is far
easier and cheaper than fixing them (which is not always possible) after they happen.
Estate Planning: Wills and Trusts, Last Will and Testament, Pourover Will, Complex wills, Codicils,
Amendments, Review of Out-of-State Wills and Other Estate Planning Documents; Revocable Living Trusts,
Insurance Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Trust Amendments, Trust Restatements, Special Needs Trusts,
Medicaid Planning Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Charitable Trusts; Powers of Attorney for Property,
Durable Powers of Attorney, Military Powers of Attorney, Limited and Special Powers of Attorney,
Medical Powers of Attorney; Advance Directives, Health Care Surrogate, Health Care Proxy; DNR Review; Living Will;
Preneed Declaration of Guardianship; Real Estate Deeds; Real Property Purchases, Sales, Transfers; Interfamily transfers of property;
Quit Claim Deed, Ladybird Deed, Enhanced Life Estate Deed, Trust Deed, Trustee's Deed; Elder Law; Charitable Planning, Charitable Giving;
FERPA and HIPAA Releases for College Students; Wills and Powers of Attorneys for Military Personnel; Family Partnerships;
Domestic Partnership Issues; Asset Protection; Guardianship Issues; Pre-Divorce Planning, Post-Divorce Planning;
Prenuptial Agreements, Cohabitation Agreements; Avoid Probate; Probate; Trust Administration.