Short form probate can save time and money

After a client dies, we often meet with their families to review how their loved one’s assets will be distributed.  For those of our clients who use a revocable living trust as their primary estate planning vehicle, we hope to learn that all of their assets were either owned by their trust during lifetime or transferred to their trust by way of beneficiary designations at death.  If that holds true, then only modest legal work will be necessary to help our clients’ families.

Unfortunately, though, that is not always case. Sometimes a bank account is inadvertently left titled in a client’s name, or they purchase assets after they did their planning without remembering that they had a revocable trust.  When this happens, it is necessary to initiate a probate administration to transfer those assets to the client’s beneficiaries. In its simplest form, probate is a court supervised process involving the transfer of assets from a deceased person to that person’s beneficiaries.  Many people wish to avoid this process since it takes time and cost money.

Even the best plans can fall short.  Fortunately, Florida, like most states, has a small estate statute that helps clients who use revocable trusts.  This statute, referred to as “summary administration,” allows for a rather quick and efficient transfer of assets from a deceased person to that person’s beneficiaries (or their revocable trust) if those assets do not exceed $75,000. In other words, if a client titled all of her accounts in the name of her trust during lifetime, but forgot to retitle her checking account, that account can pass to the trust through summary administration if the balance is less than $75,000.  This same process would apply if a client’s total assets were below $75,000 and no other approach was used to avoid probate administration.

We are often asked when encountering situations if a client’s family can handle this process on their own.  Florida probate is a forms driven practice, which means that individuals not heavily involved in this process would likely not be able to efficiently handle this work. The good news, though, is that a summary administration can be relatively inexpensive if the family is in agreement and no significant claims from creditors must be satisfied.

Are you faced with this situation? Feel free to give us a call so that we can walk you through this process.