When someone dies, their estate may need to go through probate before their assets can be distributed to beneficiaries. What this process entails will vary from one case to another depending on numerous factors, such as whether the person had assets in their name alone upon their death, if they had a will in place, how much the estate is worth, and whether any creditors bring claims against the estate.
But did you know that, in Florida, certain assets may be deemed exempt from creditors after someone passes away? It’s true. Some of the assets that may be deemed exempt from creditors and ultimately fall outside of the estate include:
- Your homestead (primary residence)
- Household appliances, furniture, and belongings within your primary residence (worth up to $20,000)
- Two regularly used motor vehicles (each weighing up to 15,000 pounds)
- Certain tuition programs
- Certain educator death benefits
How to Avoid Probate
If your goal is to make the estate administration process easier for your loved ones, you may want to consider taking the following steps with the help of a qualified estate planning lawyer:
- Create a transfer on death (TOD) account. As its name suggests, with a TOD account, the balance will automatically transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your death without first having to go through probate.
- Set up a revocable trust. Also known as a “living trust” or “inter vivos trust,” a revocable trust generally allows you to continue accessing the trust property throughout your lifetime. Then, when you pass away, the trustee will distribute the remaining property to the named beneficiaries (or manage it for their benefit).
- Use a tenancy by the entirety. If you and your spouse create a tenancy by the entirety when purchasing property, the surviving spouse will automatically inherit full ownership of the property when the other spouse dies, without the need for probate.
Many people assume that creating a will avoids probate, but that’s not the case. While having a will in place at the time of your death will certainly make the estate administration process easier and faster for your loved ones, they’ll still need to go to court to prove that your will is valid.
Meet With One of Our Skilled Estate Lawyers
Whether you’re planning for the future and want to help your beneficiaries avoid probate, or you recently lost a loved one and are wondering how to administer their estate, one of the best things you can do is meet with an attorney who specializes in estate law. A lawyer who’s well versed in probate law can explain the process to you in greater detail and help you take the steps needed to achieve your estate planning or administration goals.
Fortunately, if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you can turn to the knowledgeable team at The Lyons Law Group, P.A. With offices in New Port Richey, FL, and Spring Hill, FL, we regularly represent clients from across Pasco and Hernando counties, and we have extensive experience with both summary and formal probate. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation—we look forward to speaking with you.