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The right estate plan can avoid probate

Florida residents who have written wills might think their affairs won't have to go through probate when they pass. That isn't always the case.

In probate court, a will is reviewed to make sure it is valid. Probate can be easy in some cases, but in other cases, it can turn into an arduous and expensive process. There are a few steps people can take in writing estate plans that will pass on an inheritance without passing through a lengthy probate process first.

  • Designate a beneficiary. By doing so, financial holdings -- such as bank accounts, savings bonds or life insurance -- can transfer straight to a without going through probate.
  • Consider filing an affidavit declaring an estate is small. Once that has been accomplished, an easier probate process follows. There is no need for court proceedings.
  • Put property and other holdings into joint tenancy. That means the asset legal belongs to more than one person, and that asset will become the property of the other owner or owners after a death. That transfer is automatic. If joint tenancy does not occur, any holdings can change hands upon death only through a will or trust.
  • Set up a living trust. By doing so, people can avoid the probate process. It is advised for homeowners or for people who have a larger amount of assets, such as $150,000 or more. With a trust account, assets can be parceled out after a person's death without passing through probate court first.

Estate planning decisions are crucial and not to be entered into without thought and research. One strategy could be better for one family and another better for the next. It is best to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss the options.

Source: Gazettes, "ESTATE PLANNING: Ways To Avoid Probate," Curtis Kaiser, Oct. 8, 2012

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