Some people in Florida who are preparing an estate plan might prefer to avoid the probate process. It can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for a large and complex estate, and the records are open to the public. One option for people with a smaller estate is to arrange for a simplified probate process. For people with larger estates who prefer to be able to make a private estate plan that will not incur the cost and delay of probate, there are other ways of passing on assets.
A revocable living trust distributes assets to beneficiaries without probate after the grantor dies. IRAs, bank accounts, and vehicle registrations can all be converted to pay-on-death accounts with a beneficiary form. Real estate and other property may be converted to joint ownership, and this would mean that on the death of one owner, it would automatically transfer to the other.
Some people may want to consider the possibility of giving away a sizable portion of their estate through gifts. This can also be a way to avoid estate tax for estates worth more than the $5.45 million exemption in effect during 2016. Giving in a way that stays within tax guidelines can be complex, so it might be best to work with an attorney to develop a gift plan.
Whether or not a person is concerned with avoiding probate, making an estate plan is important. People may think it is unnecessary because they do not have dependents or they have few assets, but an estate plan also ensures that someone is appointed to make medical and financial decisions if a person is incapacitated.