In one of our previous blog posts, we covered the potential costs of the probate process in Florida. With presumptively reasonable probate fees only increasing with the compensatory value of the probate estate, it is important for estate planning purposes to keep as many assets outside of probate as possible. With a little planning, and possibly a trust, it is possible to keep most, or sometimes all, of your assets outside of the probate process. Furthermore, the cost of taking the steps to keep your assets outside of probate is minimal compared to the fees that your loved ones will face if all of your assets were required to be probated. Some of the steps described below can even be taken on your own, without the help of an attorney. With proper estate planning, it may be possible to automatically transfer all of your assets upon your death according to your wishes instantaneously, without needing any lawyers!

Here are some of the assets that must be probated and a short overview of the methods you can use to avoid the probate process. As a reminder, although you can do some of these items yourself, it is best to consult with an attorney to see what would work best for you.


Houses or Real Property

Your home is protected under Florida law as a homestead property, which prevents it from being counted as a part of the compensable value of the probate estate and does not increase the amount of attorney’s fees. However, all property, if not titled in a particular way, needs to be probated to be transferred when the owner dies. The most common method that we use in order to keep a house and other real property outside of probate is through a trust. A trust is drafted according to your wishes and then the house is deeded to the trust. Your trust becomes the owner of your house. After you pass away, the trustee of your trust will be required to transfer the property to the beneficiaries of the trust that you chose according to the requirements in the trust documents. This can happen immediately after your death or after some predetermined time period or event occurs (for example, once your kids are old enough). A trust is especially important if you own more than one home, even if the properties are located in other states. Since the value of land and houses are so high, probating them is usually an expensive process. It is always less expensive to hire an attorney to assist you in putting your property into a trust rather than paying for an attorney to transfer the assets through probate. It is important to remember, that you should consult with a local attorney in any state where you own property, because a revocable trust may not reduce estate taxes in every state.



Automobiles carry with them a great deal of potential liability. Due to the nature of vicarious liability in Florida, putting your car in your trust is a bad idea. There are several methods that can be used to transfer a car outside of probate, but unless your car is of extreme value, or unique in such a way to justify the additional cost, it’s probably more effective to use joint ownership (when spouses are involved). If you’re not married or don’t have someone you’re comfortable sharing the ownership of a vehicle, and the liability that comes with joint ownership, then your options may be limited, and costly. You should call us to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.


Investment or Bank Accounts

If you have investment and bank accounts, you may be able to transfer the accounts outside of probate by the use of a designated beneficiary. Another term for an account with a designated beneficiary is a pay on death account. A designated beneficiary is a form that you place on file with your bank or investment company, if it is a feature of your bank or investment account, that will allow you to designate someone to take ownership of the account in the event of your demise. This will occur without the need to probate the assets. If there is no designated beneficiary on the account, the assets will be required to go through probate and will count towards the compensable asset value for presumptively reasonable attorney’s fees. This is something that you can do without an attorney. Just contact your bank or investment company to see if it is possible to add a designated beneficiary to your accounts.


Contact us today to schedule a free estate planning consultation

When you meet with us for an estate planning consultation, we will examine your or your family’s assets and will be able to show you the best options to meet your goals. Depending on the value of your assets, a trust may or may not be cost beneficial to you. We will also show you how to add a designated beneficiary to your bank and investment accounts, while also answering any questions you may have. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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