Post-Death Administration

Probate in Jacksonville, Florida

Legacy Planning Law Group knows that the best way to help our clients is to understand their post-death administration needs and help them find the right solution and path forward. If you’re interested in learning more about our probate services as part of our unique Estate Settlement Program, please book your free 15-minute phone call with us today!

NAVIGATING FLORIDA PROBATE WITH A JACKSONVILLE ATTORNEY

Probate is part of a more extensive process called estate administration which handles the transfer of assets after death. Whether the decedent died with or without a will, their estate will have to be administered. Certain types of assets must be overseen by a judge to be transferred at death. In those situations, the estate will have to be probated.

Probate is a court process where a court order is needed to pass title to assets. Certain things happen in probate, the first of which is the appointment of a personal representative (also known as an executor). Once appointed, the personal representative has numerous responsibilities, including marshaling assets, giving notice to beneficiaries, giving notice to creditors, paying debts, preparing asset inventories, filing required tax returns, and finally distributing estate assets and closing out the estate. The Duval County probate court is involved every step of the way.

While some types of estate assets must go through probate, other types of assets do not. In that situation, they will still need to be administered. In other words, there will still need to be an estate administration to make sure the assets get transferred in the way the decedent wanted.

The estate administrator will have to do many actions also required in a probate proceeding. Some actions include organizing the assets, notifying the beneficiaries, giving creditors notice and a chance to file a claim, paying the decedent’s unpaid debts, preparing an inventory of the assets, filing tax returns, and finally distributing those assets to the intended beneficiaries.

How to Avoid Probate in Florida

Because probate can be a lengthy, costly, and public process, many people choose to avoid it. Several legal strategies will allow you to pass property to another person after death without going through probate in Jacksonville, FL.

ESTABLISH A JOINT TENANCY & TENANCY BY THE ENTIRETY

This legal document adds another person to your assets as a joint owner and can allow your property to pass to them upon your death without going through probate. With somebody other than your spouse, the asset would have to be owned in “joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.” However, there are pitfalls to this strategy. Some issues include subjecting such assets to any claims (such as lawsuits) against the co-owner or creditors.  At the same time, you are still alive and planning on using the assets yourself. Joint ownership between spouses is called tenancy by the entirety.

ESTABLISH BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

Florida allows transfer on death (TOD) and pays on death (POD) beneficiary designations to investment accounts and bank accounts. Beneficiary designations like these are preferable to joint tenancy in that they allow you to transfer property only upon your death without giving away current ownership. However, one of the drawbacks is that it can be challenging to obtain an equitable distribution of property among your heirs by utilizing beneficiary designations.

Additionally, understand that those assets will be distributed upon your death to the listed beneficiaries if you have beneficiaries listed on your assets, even if your last will and testament addresses otherwise. Using a revocable living trust often is the better approach. You can designate a revocable living trust as a TOD and POD beneficiary, in effect getting the best of both worlds.

ESTABLISH A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

A Revocable Living Trust is often the preferred method for avoiding probate. It is a legal document that allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to “hold” legal title to your assets while you are alive and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, you serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your benefit. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee, who then continues to manage — or distribute — the assets held in trust.

A properly drafted Florida trust can accomplish many goals, including avoiding guardianship. If you become incapacitated and your trust can help avoid probate for your loved ones after you pass away. A Revocable Living Trust in Florida can also protect your children’s inheritance from their mismanagement as well as from divorce and lawsuits. Our experienced trust attorneys in Jacksonville, FL, can help you establish suitable trusts for your unique situation in Florida.

Legacy Law Planning Group is here to help you and your loved ones understand estate planning, elder law, post-death administration, and business planning in Duval County, Florida. If you’re interested in learning more about our legal services from our experienced Jacksonville, Florida probate and estate administration attorneys, please don’t hesitate to contact us by booking a call today.

Some Additional Resources

The following resources are provided by The Florida Bar

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