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The importance of identifying probate and non-probate assets

Estate planning in Florida is a vital form of financial planning for controlling the transfer of property and wealth within families. In this day and age, one cannot rely on verbal promises when death or incapacitation occurs. Grief has a way of bringing out negative feelings and creating conflict that can negate the final wishes of the deceased. 

When planning your estate, it is important to inventory your tangible and nontangible assets, even those with joint ownership. Failure to title all assets properly, not using the arsenal of estate planning tools available and relying solely on a will can result in some of your property ending up in the hands of the wrong people.

One way to avoid challenges to your estate plans and preserve your intentions is to know the difference between probate and non-probate assets to help streamline the time it takes to settle your estate.

Probate court oversees the transfer of certain assets

First, you must understand that probate is a process that an estate must go through when a person dies. The role of probate court is to ensure the payment of debts and estate taxes and to pass down the remaining proceeds to the heirs.

The probate process is a lengthy one; it can take many months to a few years to finalize an estate. One way many people get around the lengthy probate process and minimize the involvement of the courts is with a will, but it is not the only tool available that can help. Depending on the type of assets in a person’s estate, more than a will might become necessary.

Many people have more than tangible assets, such as real estate, cars, jewelry, art collections and other personal items. When there are financial assets such as joint accounts, trusts, retirement income and life insurance policies in an estate, it is necessary to include estate plan provisions to ensure their proper dispersion. These assets do not qualify for probate, which means neither the probate court nor a will dictates how they transfer. The institution that maintains the accounts often has different rules that take precedence over a testator’s will.

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