Don’t Rely On Legal Advice From Neighbors

Q: Despite my mother’s clear intentions in her will to leave everything to me, I found myself entangled in a costly probate process to inherit her estate. How can I ensure my own estate is organized to spare my children from enduring such a burdensome ordeal?

A: As per Caring.com, a primary hub for aging and caregiving resources, which also offers tools to find assisted living and home care services, only 32% of US adults prioritize drafting a will or trust. Additionally, a mere 15% manage any form of estate planning due to frequent loss or misplacement of documents. Even among those who keep their paperwork, many fall short of safeguarding their assets adequately, mistakenly assuming that the documents automatically transfer assets to heirs. Consequently, a majority of heirs find themselves entangled in
probate proceedings, often unfamiliar with the process and facing costs
beyond their means.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process often misunderstood until needed, such as when accessing a deceased relative’s assets like a home or jewelry. Despite what a will specifies, legal steps are usually necessary to claim these assets, requiring proving in court that one is the rightful heir as stated in the will. In simpler terms, probate involves confirming the will before the court. In
Florida, hiring an attorney for probate is mandatory unless the estate is valued under $75,000 and you have the ability to manage the complex probate process yourself.

 

How much does probate typically cost?

It’s often in the thousands of dollars. Many uninformed individuals mistakenly believe that having a will alone is sufficient to avoid probate. However, this misconception often leads to unnecessary expenses lining attorneys’ pockets. Had the deceased sought advice from an attorney about probate when preparing their will, these costs could have been avoided. With the proper legal documents, probate can sometimes be entirely circumvented.

 

How can the 85% of adults who are uninformed about probate protect their heirs from the lengthy process, especially for significant assets like houses, bank accounts, and investment accounts?

The solution is straightforward. For bank and investment accounts, you can appoint beneficiaries
directly on the accounts using a Payable on Death (POD) arrangement, which most banks and investment companies will set up at no extra cost. When it comes to real estate, including Florida homestead properties and timeshares, placing them into an enhanced Life Estate Deed, commonly known as a Lady Bird Deed, may be a wise choice. Both POD arrangements and Florida’s Enhanced Life Estate Deeds allow assets to pass directly to beneficiaries at once upon death, bypassing the need for probate.

If you’re among the 85% who rely on advice from neighbors rather than consulting with an estate planning attorney, it’s essential to actively seek correct information to ensure your assets are properly passed to your beneficiaries upon your death. Without taking informed steps, you risk burdening your loved ones with costly legal fees and complicated probate processes potentially causing your assets to become unclaimed property in Florida. The most responsible approach is to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. Do it today.

 

Kristen Jackson is the founding partner of Jackson Law P.A. (407-363-9020). She is experienced in estate planning, real estate law, business and contract law. Her firm has earned an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell signifying the highest level of professional excellence as obtained through opinions from members of the bar and judiciary. For more information, visit www.JacksonFloridaRealtor.com

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Written by Kristen Jackson

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