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Estate planning considers various options for the best outcome

One thing that should at least be considered when planning one's estate in Florida and elsewhere is the possibility of avoiding the probate process altogether. It is worth evaluating such a strategy due to the arcane and time-consuming procedures and requirements often still found in many state probate codes. When something takes a long time in the legal system, it can also cost more in monetary expenses. Estate planning should at least evaluate whether there will be significant delays or uncertainties that probate may cause to one's beneficiaries.

With probate being open to the public, one's finances and financial plans after death will be open to anyone to examine in detail. Part of the probate problem may be avoided by having assets titled jointly, thus having them pass to the joint owner instantly by operation of law when the other owner dies. Other assets, such as retirement accounts, life insurance and any accounts where there are beneficiaries listed, will also pass by law to the designated beneficiary, and thus bypass the probate process.

The only assets subject to the probate process will generally be those owned by the deceased in his or her own name at the time of death. The probate process can be avoided with respect to those assets also by setting up a living trust. A revocable living trust is the most popular vehicle to achieve that result.

With all of that said, some people prefer a public review of their estate performed by the probate judge. They feel that it keeps executors and trustees in check and prevents the potential for wrongdoing by estate representatives. Furthermore, it permits any person who feels wrongly treated to file objections with the court and obtain formal court review over the matter. Estate planning for probate in Florida and elsewhere also provides the benefit of court approval of title, sales transactions and other activities that will stand up better with court backing.

Source: Forbes, "7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes", Bob Carlson, Feb. 26, 2018

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