How to Avoid Probate in Orlando

Estate Planning Strategies for Avoiding Probate

At Jackson Law, we understand how anxious you may be to ensure that your estate does not have to pass through the probate process. If you are concerned with making sure that your loved ones are able to enjoy the full benefits of the fruit of your lifelong hard work, it is in your best interests to implement an estate plan that anticipates the issue of probate and effectively removes your personal assets from the requirement to probate the will. Some of the most common estate planning strategies that are used for avoiding probate include:

Gifts
The simplest solution for avoiding probate is to make gifts to your heirs while you are still alive. Anything you give to your loved ones is, obviously, not subject to probate, since it is no longer an asset of your personal estate. A downside to this approach is that you can only give a certain amount to each person in any given year before you may be required to pay a gift tax. The maximum allowable gift changes periodically, but is currently set by the Internal Revenue Service at $14,000 per year to each recipient. Another disadvantage of gifting is, of course, that you have to give up the assets or funds while you are still alive.

Joint Ownership
Anything that you and your spouse own jointly will automatically skip probate, since full ownership will automatically revert to the surviving spouse. If your vehicle, bank accounts, securities, home, or other assets are solely in the name of either you or your spouse, adding the other person's name to the title can prevent probate, at least for the transfer of assets to the other spouse.

Pay-on-Death Accounts
It is possible to designate a checking or savings account as a pay-on-death account (POD) naming another person as the beneficiary. As the name implies, a pay-on-death account will automatically transfer funds to the beneficiary upon the death of the account holder. It does not create joint ownership of the account, but rather provides that the beneficiary will receive the funds when the qualifying event takes place. A similar option is the transfer-on-death account (TOD), which transfers securities including stocks and bonds. Unfortunately, the funds in such accounts may be exposed to the claims of creditors of the decedent. Furthermore, this estate planning instrument is nowhere near as flexible as certain other options.

Revocable Trusts
Perhaps the most powerful and flexible estate planning strategy for avoiding probate is the revocable trust. When you establish a revocable trust (also referred to a living trust or inter vivos trust), you, as the grantor or settlor, transfer funds into the trust, which is also known as "funding the trust." The trustee then assumes control of the trust fund and all assets contained therein. Revocable trusts work to avoid probate by removing the assets from your estate, but this does not mean that you will be depriving yourself of the control and possession of these assets, since you can name yourself as the trustee. Upon your death, the successor trustee will assume control and will then distribute the assets according to the terms and schedule that you have specified in the trust.

Hire Our Orlando Probate Lawyers

It is in your best interests to hire an experienced Orlando estate planning lawyer to ensure that you make no errors in the drafting of the documents and the funding of the trust, and that the instrument will stand up to legal challenges and operate according to your wishes. In addition to establishing a revocable trust, you may choose to draft a pour-over will to direct that any assets not held in the trust will be transferred to the trust upon your death. To discuss your unique situation and begin working on the strategy best suited for you, contact us now.

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