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Which Assets Are Exempt From Probate In Florida?

May 22, 2024 | Elder Law

If you have recently lost a family member, you are presumably riddled with questions. Amidst your grief, you are probably confused about the legal processes and how and when you can gain access to the possessions of your loved one. What assets have to go through probate? All of them or just some? What about assets that you and your family member owned jointly, such as your home?

In the state of Florida, not all assets have to pass through probate, and the lawyers of Elder Law, P.A. have the estate planning legal experience to tell you which of your loved one’s possessions can be passed directly to you or another beneficiary. Read on to learn more about probate in Florida and your rights regarding the assets of your deceased loved one.

Probate: An Overview

Probate is the legal process by which the will is submitted to the court and the contents therein distributed. In Florida, there are two types of probate administration:

  • Formal administration takes place when a person has been dead for less than two years and owned more than $75,000 worth of assets.
  • Summary administration can be done when a person has been dead for two or more years or if they owned assets worth less than a total of $75,000. This process tends to be quicker and more informal.

Sometimes people have a tendency to think that having a last will and testament is enough to avoid probate in Florida, but this is just a myth. In fact, the probate process is necessary to ensure that the will can be validated and the contents distributed accurately and fairly.

Perhaps you’re thinking that if you don’t have a will, in that case, you can avoid probate. Not so. If you do not leave behind a will, your estate will still have to go through probate, the difference being that the court will decide how your assets are to be distributed.

So what possessions do and do not have to go through probate? It should be noted that if you are worried about your own assets going through probate and want to ease the process for your family, the best thing you can do is establish trusts in their names. If items you wish to bequeath are placed in trusts, you can control how and when they are administered, and they will be exempt from probate.

However, if you are looking for information on the assets your loved one left behind and whether or not they have to be submitted to probate, you can read on for a detailed overview.

Assets Exempt From Probate

Perhaps you are worried that the probate process, which includes the payment of debts, might mean that you lose something important, like your home or an account that you owned jointly with your loved one. Luckily, Florida law provides for exemptions to probate, which include:

  • Joint accounts: Accounts and other property owned jointly will generally pass into exclusive ownership by the surviving co-owner.
  • Assets with named beneficiaries: These types of assets include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other such accounts with a “pay on death” designation. Bonds also count under this stipulation. Again, if these accounts are jointly owned, they will automatically be transferred to the surviving owner.
  • Homestead property: According to Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution, homestead property is exempt from probate. Your homestead is your primary residence. One key stipulation is that the residence cannot be abandoned before the death of the decedent (the person who has recently passed and whose assets are in contention), which might legally be the case in the event that your loved one was living in a nursing home prior to their death. Again, if the property is owned jointly, it will go to the co-owner, especially if that owner is also a resident at the homestead. Homestead property is also exempt from claims by creditors.
  • Vehicles: Florida statutes provide exemptions for up to two motor vehicles that individually don’t weigh more than up to 15,000 pounds and are used as regular transportation by members of the household. These vehicles must be in the name of the decedent.
  • Furniture: The home furnishings and appliances in the household are exempt from probate up to a value of $20,000. Though many of the personal belongings of the decedent are exempt, items like art and jewelry have to go through probate, even if they are not expensive pieces.
  • College tuition programs: All qualified tuition programs in Florida are exempt from probate according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund program falls under this exemption.

To reiterate, any items placed in a trust do not have to go through probate. Though this is a general overview of items that are exempt from probate, you might still have questions about particular assets belonging to your family member. In order to learn specific information on the assets in question, it is best to speak to a probate lawyer such as the ones at Elder Law, P.A.

Items That Have To Go Through Probate

Now that you understand the assets that are exempt from probate, here is a quick rundown of assets that are required to go through probate. These items include:

  • Art
  • Jewelry
  • Bank accounts (if solely owned by the decedent)
  • Investment accounts
  • Cars outside of vehicle exemptions
  • Boats
  • Planes
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real estate outside of the homestead

Most other personal property will also have to go through probate. These items are simply among the most common, so it’s best to seek legal help if you have questions pertaining to specific possessions.

Elder Law, P.A. Can Help You With All Your Probate Questions

At Elder Law, P.A., we understand that you are going through a hard period in your life and have many questions related to the probate process. If you are the executor of the estate or a beneficiary, you can use the help of our experienced probate lawyer in order to understand the intricacies of the process, avoid pitfalls, and eliminate the possibility of litigation. You can contact us to schedule a free initial consultation and we will go over some of the steps that we can take to help you through the probate process.

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