If administering the estate assets of a deceased loved one was easy and affordable, the surviving family would have fewer worries and more time to process their grief. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case with probate, which is typically complex and expensive, especially when an estate involves multiple properties. Understandably, some parties wonder if there are assets that skip probate, reducing the load they would have to deal with.
The general rule: All properties are subject to probate
Generally, all assets belonging to the decedent go through the probate process in Florida, whether there is a will or not. This way, interested parties can authenticate the contents of the decedent’s will, if any, and the court, through an executor or administrator, can distribute all assets according to the probate laws.
The exceptions: Certain assets to skip probate
In Florida, several properties do not have to go through probate due to their nature or the decedent’s action. One of the common probate exceptions is properties placed in a trust. Upon transferring assets to the trust, the grantor no longer has ownership and control over them. Hence, trust assets do not form the grantor’s estate and will not undergo probate.
Additionally, assets with designated beneficiaries and transfer-on-death features, such as life insurance proceeds, retirement account payouts and bank account funds, are exempt from probate since the properties transfer directly to the beneficiaries.
Properties that the decedent jointly owned with another are also probate-exempt assets since the properties will transfer to the surviving partner or co-owner.
Moreover, Florida homesteads are exempt from probate. Assets subject to probate are automatically subject to creditor claims. Since homestead is exempt from those claims, they are generally excluded from the process.
Other exemptions include household furniture and appliances with a total value not exceeding $20,000, regularly used vehicles weighing not more than 15,000 pounds and IRS-qualified tuition programs.
The importance of proper asset identification and categorization
Correctly identifying and categorizing the decedent’s assets would expedite the probate process. And when the administration is quicker, the costs will also likely decrease. Having a qualified and responsible executor or administrator is key to achieving this objective.