When you have built a sizable estate during your lifetime, the last thing you want is for the state of Florida to decide how it will be divided. As such, it is important to have an estate plan in place to avoid estate disputes and other issues. If your estate plan is well-structured and notarized, then probate (the process of verifying the will and distributing assets accordingly) should be much less of a hassle.

When the probate process begins, all of the asset of the recently deceased, the decedent, are accounted for. Any assets that were not solely owned by the decedent are not subject to probate. This includes real estate, bank accounts, life insurance policies and other accounts and properties. If any assets were owned jointly with someone else, that asset automatically passes on without probate at the time of the decedent’s death.

The reason probate is so important is that it alleviates the surviving family from having to take care of the decedent’s debts. In probate, creditors are paid first before the beneficiaries named in the will ever receive a dime. This process is especially crucial if there is no will left behind.

When the decedent does not leave a will, the probate process becomes more complicated. The decedent becomes “intestate,” and the state of Florida takes over. Assets are distributed to descendants and relatives according to state law, and anyone outside of the immediate family does not receive anything.

If you have yet to create a will, it is never too early to do so. An estate planning law attorney may be able to help you create a will that is right for you and your beneficiaries.