Do I Need to Probate an Estate in Florida?
One of the simplest, yet most common questions estate planning lawyers get is, “Will I need to probate my estate?” The answer is relatively simple, yet complicated at the same time. At Sejour-Gustave Law Firm, PLLC, we are a faith-based law firm, guided by principles of law and heartfelt devotion to Christ. As such, we see one’s final wishes in a different way than many attorneys. We understand that there is often far more to one’s final estate than dollars and cents. Sometimes, matters of conscience are just as important. So, when deciding whether a probate estate will be needed, here are some basic considerations.
Are You Required to Open a Probate Estate?
Probably. The short answer is that most people who are Florida residents when they pass away will probably need to probate their estate, assuming they have any assets at all. The good news is that unless you have more than $75,000 in total combined assets, summary administration is likely acceptable. This is an abbreviated probate proceeding, where you petition the probate court for approval and permission to administer the estate (distribute the money and pay the bills) all at once. This saves money on attorney fees and court costs, as well as expediting the process. For those with more than that, probate is pretty hard to avoid unless you have already made efforts to do so through proper estate planning.
How Important is Privacy?
If privacy is of utmost importance to you, as it is to many Floridians, then you should strongly consider a trust. The Florida Bar Association has a handy pamphlet about probate, and it explains some of the rules and procedures involved. However, one thing that cannot be avoided in probate is that the filings are a matter of public record. This means anyone from the media to your greedy cousin can access the court records and read all about how much money you had and what you did with it. A trust, on the other hand, is a private document that is typically not filed in court and not administered by a judge.
Are You Concerned About Donations to Charity?
While those of us with sincerely held religious beliefs understand that our faith is sometimes not fully understood by others, the sad part of it is when close family members allow their greed to override their love. Consider what happens when a person leaves a large donation to the church in a will, but family members later want to challenge those intentions by arguing undue influence or claiming the testator had no mental capacity to make the will, given the large donation. If you are concerned about these types of challenges later, then it is probably best to use a trust. Or, in the alternative, make sure you are communicating your intentions well in advance and working with a reputable attorney who can advocate for your wishes even after you are gone.
Planning is Always Better Than Reacting
Ultimately, nothing compares to a well-thought-out plan. For estate planning assistance, including probate avoidance strategies, contact us online or call the Sejour-Gustave Law Firm, PLLC to set up your consultation today.