3 Drawbacks Of Florida Probate (Why You Should Avoid It)

Feb 7, 2023 | Probate, Uncategorized

Not many people have heard of probate before or know what it is, unless you’ve dealt with a death in the family before or have friends who have had to navigate it, but suffice it to say there’s a reason for this – probate is something that’s better avoided, if possible. 

It’s not a fun legal ordeal. It’s actually notorious for being so complex and burdensome that there are attorneys whose entire practices are dedicated to helping people get the right legal documents in place to keep probate from happening to them or their families. 

But what makes people want to steer clear of it, and why should you? Here are 3 important drawbacks of Florida probate that you should know about so you can better understand the process and take your own precautions to prevent it. 

First Off, What Is Probate, And What Does It Involve?

Probate is a Florida court process that typically needs to occur when someone passes away and owned assets in their name only but didn’t have a trust. The purpose of probate is to transfer those assets to their beneficiaries according to their legal wishes (or, if they didn’t leave a will behind, according to state laws and procedures). It involves a series of legal steps such as validating the will if there was one, collecting and inventorying and appraising the deceased person’s estate, settling debts with creditors and paying taxes, and distributing the remaining items to the heirs. 

The good thing about probate is that it ensures that not just anyone can make a claim to a deceased person’s property – it puts red tape in place to make sure that the family members and friends who were intended to get it, do! However, that same protective red tape can be very messy to sort through. 

Probate Is Time-Consuming. 

Depending on how complicated the situation is, it can take months or even years to resolve probate. If there are any creditor claims or lawsuits, or if there are any family members who disagree about any part of the process, then it can take even longer. The average time in Florida is about 6 to 9 months, roughly, for a “formal administration” (traditional probate process) to take place.

Why does it take so long? There are various waiting periods involved in the due process – creditors have to be formally notified and given a certain amount of time to respond, as to beneficiaries. It may be difficult to track down some beneficiaries. If the taxes on the estate are complex, it can take longer to sort through those as well….the larger the estate/more money involved, the more heirs they are, the more debt the estate has, or the more spread out geographically the heirs are, the longer probate can take to close. 

Probate Is Stressful.

If you’re named as the estate executor in charge of overseeing the process, then you have many legal duties and responsibilities – you take on liability for the estate. If you miss deadlines, or fill out paperwork incorrectly (and there is tons of paperwork involved), you could be fined by the courts. If you mishandle assets, you could be sued by creditors or by other beneficiaries. You have to ensure all of the financial details and tax details are correct. Particularly if you are not a numbers person, this can be extremely difficult. It can be hard to even understand what is required of you. 

When you’re grieving the loss of someone you love, the last thing you need is all these legal tasks on your plate and all the dread of a potential legal problem hanging over you. 

Probate Is Expensive, In More Ways Than One.

There are a lot of financial costs that go into probating an estate. First there are the filing fees – depending on what county you live in, these can vary, but to start probate you have to file the will and file a petition to open probate (and pay to do so). 

There are also publication fees; any time there is a hearing, or notices need to be made, the notices have to be published in a newspaper. This may happen three or four different times during the course of probate, and depending on the newspaper and specific situation, it could cost upwards of $100 each time to publish. 

There’s the cost of postage – in order to notify beneficiaries and creditors, you may have to send certified U.S. mail, which can cost between $7 – $9 or more per piece of mail sent. 

There are also realtor fees, title company fees, auctioneer fees, appraisal fees, and more that need to be paid to professionals who have to assist with certain parts of the probate process. In addition, there are attorney fees, if you are using an attorney (which is highly recommended in order to cut down on time and save on other types of probate fees, as well as cut down on your stress level since probate lawyers are familiar with the process). 

Before you get too worried, these fees will most likely come out of the estate’s remaining assets. However, the more money probate costs, the less money is left to you and the other beneficiaries as an inheritance. 

How To Avoid Probate

Probate, as we said, isn’t fun. If you’ve already lost a loved one, there may not be much that can be done post-death to prevent the process from occurring; your best course of action would be o ctonsult with a local Florida probate lawyer who can explain your options and guide you to the quickest, most cost-effective resolution possible. You may be eligible for a simplified form of probate, which a lawyer can tell you about. 

However, there are many things you can do right now to avoid your family from having to navigate probate when you eventually pass away. You can secure assets in a trust, so they won’t have to psas through probate. You can change assets to be owned in joint tenancy with someone else. You can ensure that your will is up-to-date, compliant with state laws, and matches beneficiary designations on your life insurance, bank, and retirement accounts. You can get a comprehensive estate plan in place so your family will know exactly what to do if anything happens to you.

At Elder Law, P.A., we help Florida seniors and other individuals and families get peace of mind for the future by avoiding probate and its drawbacks. Our attorneys work diligently to ensure that our clients – and everyone/everything that matters most to them – is protected, both now and in the future. Call today to book a free consultation and learn more! 

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