How To Avoid Probate

When a person dies, his or her assets (collectively called the “estate”) pass through the local probate court in a process that ensures that the estate is properly administered and distributed. This process, known as “probate,” provides that debts, taxes, and administrative expenses are covered before the remainder of the estate is distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with a will or state law if there is no will. 

Because probate is required for all estates, it can be quite a long process and the court costs, legal fees, and administrative expenses can really add up. Probate is also made public to protect creditors and potential heirs. For many people, the expense, time, and public nature of probate is worrisome. However, there are ways to keep assets (especially those with the most value) out of probate.

Our St. Petersburg estate planning attorneys are experienced in creating individualized estate plans that keep your assets out of probate. By creating such a plan, assets can remain private and can pass freely to your chosen beneficiaries as soon as you die, avoiding the long and expensive probate process.

The best way to keep assets out of probate is to create a revocable living trust. A living trust means that it can be created and funded while you are still alive. This kind of trust is “revocable” because it can be added to, changed, and even canceled during your lifetime.

A revocable living trust allows you to create a trust, fund it with the proper assets,and then name yourself as the trustee. Utilizing a revocable living trust allows you to retain all ownership rights and control of the trust assets. As part of the trust, you name a successor trustee. This is the person who will take responsibility for the trust assets when you die or become incapacitated. The successor trustee is bound by the trust terms that you create, determining how, when, and to whom the assets are to be distributed.

Once you die, your revocable living trust becomes irrevocable, meaning the terms cannot be changed.  Therefore, you will have no fear that the terms will be altered after your death.

Our estate planning attorneys approach each client’s unique family and financial situation with care, empathy, and experience. We believe in crafting a customized estate plan for each client based on your priorities, values, and goals. If you are interested in learning more about how to keep your assets out of probate, contact us here.