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Oh No—Probate!

posted on November 10, 2015, under Conference by

by Gloria Becker

Probate“HELP! I just probated my parents’ estate, and I don’t want my children to go through this aggravation. What can I do?” In the Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving office, we hear this question quite often. How can people avoid the expense of probate and the delay in settling their loved ones’ affairs?

Simply put, probate is the process by which a court oversees your estate, including paying off your debts and distributing your remaining assets. Essentially, this process concludes all your legal and financial matters after your demise. The court will distribute assets according to your Will. If there is no Will, the court will follow the state rules for estate distribution.

What Are the Advantages of Probate?
The probate process:

  • Validates your Will and confirms the appointment of the Executor (or Personal Representative) you stipulated in your Will.
  • Supervises the Executor to ensure that debts are properly paid, claims are resolved, and property is distributed according to the Will.
  • Limits time for creditors to make a claim against the estate.

What Are the Disadvantages of Probate?
There are some disadvantages of probate, including:

  • Probate costs can be expensive with fees for attorneys, executor, accounting, filing, and other miscellaneous charges. Administrative fees can consume between 5% and 10% of your estate.
  • Your estate does not have privacy since your Will, beneficiary and asset information, and creditor claims are all matters of public record.
  • The probate process is inflexible as it must adhere to state statutes and strict court rules.
  • The time frame to probate your estate can be as little as six months, if it’s a simple Will, or two years or longer for a more complicated Will.

How Can I Avoid Probate?
Here are a few tips to avoid probate:

  • Establish a Revocable Trust and transfer your assets to the trust.
  • Legally co-own your home, car, or bank accounts with another person in joint tenancy.
  • Name beneficiaries on your checking/savings accounts, life insurance, pension plans, and IRAs.

Do I Need an Advisor and/or Lawyer?
It is highly recommended that you seek counsel from an estate planning consultant.

The good news is that the Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving Department has a consultant team ready to assist you in putting together your plan. We work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Together, we can familiarize you with your best options.

And there’s more good news: If you are a constituent member of a Florida Conference church, the service is FREE to you, so contact us today.

(407) 644-5000 x2241

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