Legal Tools To Avoid Probate
The process of going through probate can be confusing and time-consuming. There are several legal tools you can use to avoid probate, while still ensuring your loved ones are provided for and your creditors are paid.
Deed Property with a Right of Survivorship
Deeding ownership in property by either tenancy by the entirety (TBE) or as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTROS) can ensure that your property will automatically pass to a loved one without getting tied up in probate. Be aware, though, that Florida statutes regarding real and personal property require this right to survivorship be declared specifically in order to apply.
To establish a TBE or JTROS certain conditions, known as ‘unities’, must be met. These unities require both owners to have an equal share and the right to equal possession of the property, to have both names listed on whatever document is used to convey ownership of the property, and for their joint ownership to have originated in the same document. For a tenancy by entirety, there is an additional unity requirement that the parties be married.
Designate Accounts ‘Payable on Death’
You can provide loved ones easy access to funds in bank accounts and avoid probate by making your accounts payable on death (POD). Florida law enables you to name a beneficiary on checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit or money market accounts. Establishing a POD and naming a beneficiary isn’t the same as having a joint account. It simply allows the person you’ve specified access to your funds after you’ve passed. To enable this, you simply inform your banking institution that you would like to have your account designated payable on death, and provide information regarding your beneficiary. Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person either; through a POD account you can easily provide for a business or charitable organization also.
Establish a Trust
A revocable or living trust effectively transfers your assets prior to your death. A trust allows you to protect and manage assets during your lifetime, while protecting them from probate and certain taxes after you’ve passed. A revocable trust means it can be revoked – or changed – at any time, granted you are not incapacitated in such a way as to prevent those changes. It’s important to make sure your trust is funded properly and is managed well, with all transactions associated with the trust recorded. Once established, you will still be able to access and withdraw assets from your trust as needed.
While there are many advantages to creating a trust, the Florida Bar Association urges those considering establishing one to consult an lawyer. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can advise you on how to fund, maintain, and manage your trust, as well as explain the tax consequences associated with having a trust.
Contact Our Office
The probate process can be confusing. For help with changing a deed, setting accounts up properly, or establishing a trust, contact the Law Firm of William E. Raikes III. Serving all of Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie, Vero Beach, Saint Lucie, and Indian River Counties, our experienced estate planning lawyers will work with you to provide a personalized plan to protect your assets, as well as provide a brighter future for your loved ones.