At left of probate canyon is the courthouse, banks, and property. On the other are the beneficiaries.

Avoid the Probate Canyon

At left of probate canyon is the courthouse, banks, and property. On the other are the beneficiaries.

Jacob and Michelle, who were married with two minor children. Unexpectedly both were killed in an automobile collision. They had no last wills. It was impossible to determine who died first, and each person is presumed by law to own half of all of their assets, so both estates had to be probated.

Because the children were minors, a court-appointed guardian was required to manage the estates until the children were 18 years of age. Had Jacob and Michelle established a revocable living trust naming a successor trustee to handle their assets upon their deaths, neither probate nor guardianship for their children would have been required.

Unfortunately, death seems to occur when families are least prepared and most vulnerable. As if hit by a ton of bricks, death leaves an enormous crevice between dreams and reality. Our firm refers to this massive crevice as "The Probate Canyon."

Imagine on one cliff of a canyon are all of the possessions acquired during your lifetime: a home, cars, bank accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts and more. Now imagine your surviving loved ones on the opposite cliff of that canyon. While they are entitled to everything you worked for during your lifetime, there is no "estate planning bridge" that guides them to your possessions because you failed to build one before you died.

When this happens, you cannot avoid probate in Florida and your loved ones shall be forced to wait for the court to build a bridge for them. That bridge comes with a large price. Your loved ones will only receive your possessions after the court and the attorneys have been paid for their fees, probate court costs, recording fees, death taxes, accounting fees, appraisal costs, executor commissions, publication costs, and more. Payment will come from assets that would have been distributed to your beneficiaries had you taken the necessary steps to avoid probate.

What is Probate? It is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. If a person dies with or without a last will, their heirs are required to hire an attorney to manage the probate settlement by the court. Furthermore, the probate process may take a year or longer if there are complex issues to resolve and can cost 6 percent or more of the total value of your estate. However, you can take steps to avoid the costs and delays of probate.

Avoid the probate canyon, discussed in the above example, by contacting a qualified estate planning attorney who can help you plan for unexpected events by preparing an estate plan for you.