J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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What are some strategies to avoid probate in Florida?

Recently, Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74 after years of battling Parkinson's Disease. Many people in Florida and around the world revered Ali for his prowess in the boxing ring, as well as for his outspoken personality and fight for social justice outside the ring.

In a recent post in this blog we discussed the death of another superstar, Prince Rogers Nelson, and the developing battle among potential beneficiaries of his estate. Like Prince, Ali most likely left a substantial fortune, which could continue to grow even after his death. Therefore, Ali's estate administration issues could become very heated, and they may play out in the public eye. These questions about Ali's and Prince's estates may make some people wonder whether all estate settlements have to involve probate issues that include public court proceedings. The short answer is no, not all estates have to end like this.

One strategy that can help an individual keep assets out of probate is the use of Payable on Death accounts. These are accounts that pass directly to a beneficiary and do not go through the probate process. Once the account owner dies, the funds in the account are paid to the beneficiary named in the account, and the legal system is typically not involved.

A revocable trust is another estate planning tool that can help a person keep their estate out of probate. A person can set up their estate so that all of the assets are in a trust, and upon their death, the trustee distributes the assets to beneficiaries, without any need for probate involvement. Trusts are also a good option because people can tailor them to meet the needs of their particular circumstances. Thus, unlike will substitutes such as life insurance, trusts offer flexibility.

The bottom line is that not all estate administration has to involve difficult probate issues that pit family members and other beneficiaries against each other in a public arena. People in Polk County who are interested in setting up their estate in this manner should contact an experienced estate administration attorney.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Avoiding the Probate Process," Accessed on June 24, 2016

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