If you own any assets solely in your name at the time of your death, your family will need to file a legal proceeding in the probate court to get those assets transferred to the rightful beneficiaries and heirs. If you left a will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the will. If you do not have a will or trust in place at the time of your death, then your assets will be subject to the laws of Florida intestate succession. This means that your assets may not be given to those family members you wanted them to go to.
There are a few ways to avoid a Florida probate or an intestate proceeding. You can make a Florida trust. You can own assets jointly or designate a beneficiary. Married couples frequently hold title to real estate used as their primary residence jointly with their spouse. The surviving spouse can take advantage of the homestead exemption. Florida homestead property is not subject to creditor’s claims so your creditors cannot force your surviving spouse to sell the property to pay any claims after your death (mortgage on that property excluded). Bank accounts that are held jointly with a spouse or adult child are exempt from probate as well. Another way to avoid probate is you can always give away your assets to your loved ones while you are still alive. Many people take advantage of the federal gift tax exemption of $5milion + and also gift assets valued up to $13,000 a year to their children or other family members. A married couple can gift $26,000 tax exempt to anyone they wish.
If you have a life insurance policy, your beneficiary automatically gets the proceeds after your death. A life insurance policy can be made exempt from probate by placing it into a Life Insurance Trust (ILIT). Retirement and pension accounts are also exempt from probate because they have named beneficiaries. Please remember that being exempt from probate court does not make assets exempt from estate taxes.
If you need legal assistance with preparing a will, trust, administering an estate, or you are involved in an estate litigation matter, it is recommended that you speak with a Miami probate and estate attorney for advice.
If you wish to speak to a Miami estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (786) 522-1411.