If you are beginning to think about estate planning, there are several things you can put in place now to help your family stay out of probate court later. Not only is probate expensive and time-consuming, it is also easy to avoid.
1. Set Up a Living Trust
A living trust is better for your heirs than a will. If you live in Florida, a living trust will help your children stay out of probate court, since there will be nothing to prove or debate.
When you add your assets (everything from bank accounts to jewelry) to the trust, oddly enough, they aren’t really yours anymore; they now belong to the trust.
You can cancel or alter anything you need to, though. That is why this kind of trust is called “revocable” — because you can remove assets or rename beneficiaries while you’re alive. Once you die, the trust becomes irrevocable.
2. Name a Trustee
It is very important to name a trustee, or “personal representative” as they are called in Florida. Be sure to keep this up-to-date if your chosen trustee dies before you, or if there are other reasons why he or she can’t be your trustee anymore. Unlike waiting for a will’s distribution of property or funds, your trustee will have immediate access to funds for funeral expenses and to pay off any of your outstanding debts.
Living trusts are not as likely as wills to be challenged in court. In fact, unlike a living trust, no one but your trustee will ever have access to the information. Wills, on the other hand, are considered public and any nosy relative can get a copy.
If this is sounding a bit strange and complicated, don’t worry. A probate attorney in Florida can help you through the process.
3. Name Beneficiaries
You need to be specific about who gets what. Every single thing you list from your life insurance policy to an antique ring needs to have a beneficiary attached to it. This won’t be easy, but it will save your children from fighting over things when you’re gone. You can try to be fair and be sure each child gets an equal amount of your possessions, or you can ask ahead of time which of your items holds particular significance to each child.
Be sure you also have backup beneficiaries in case your first listed beneficiary predeceases you. If you want to know the rules of probate in Florida, check this out here.
4. Be a Joint Owner
If you are married and you own a house together, of course, the house will come to the other partner automatically. If you and your partner or housemate aren’t married, however, here is why joint ownership is better in Florida: the surviving tenant gains full ownership without having to go to probate court.
Your probate lawyer can help you figure out how to word more complex instructions, as well. For example, if the partner you own the home with is not a parent to your children, you can make it so that your spouse can stay in the house while he or she is alive, but then it goes to your family.
As in the rest of life, it’s always better to study rules and know what you’re doing ahead of time. An experienced probate lawyer will explain everything to you, help you make changes if you need to, and be your family’s representative in court so they won’t have to. Make arrangements with an expert now to be sure everything in your estate is disbursed the way you want it to be. Save your heirs the hassle of probate court in Florida.
Byron Simpson is a qualified business/finance writer expert in investment, debt, credit cards, Passive income, financial updates. He advises in his blog finance cent.