After you die, the probate courts determine how to divide your estate. The process is extensive, which can delay the distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries or increase emotional turmoil amongst the family.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to ensure the process runs quickly and seamlessly. In some cases, your family might be able to avoid probate altogether.
1. Create a valid will
A last will and testament is one of the most important documents for probate. Florida recognizes valid wills as written documents that you signed in front of two witnesses. Getting your will notarized or having your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit can greatly expedite probate since your witnesses will not need to testify to the authenticity of your will. However, if the courts determine your will is invalid, probate will split your assets in accordance with Florida’s rules on intestate succession.
2. Create a living trust
With a trust, you can have the ownership of different properties transferred to a designated inheritor after you die. Since it will not be in your name, probate will not consider property within a trust as part of your estate.
3. Designate beneficiaries
Many types of financial accounts allow you to designate beneficiaries to receive payouts in the form of death benefits. These include retirement plans, stocks, bonds and life insurance policies. Make sure you explicitly name beneficiaries on these accounts.
4. Co-own assets
If you share ownership of an asset with someone, they will automatically obtain ownership of that asset after you die. Add another person to your titles or deeds to co-own assets and leave special property out of probate.
Being proactive and planning your estate ahead of time can save your family time, money and anguish after you die.