After someone passes away, probate is the legal process of inventorying and evaluating the property and assets in that person’s estate, paying the estate’s debts and taxes, and distributing what remains according to the deceased person’s will.

You’ve probably heard that it is wise to avoid probate – for two reasons. The first reason is that probate ties up property assets for months, sometimes for more than a year. The second reason to avoid probate is that it’s costly. In some cases, the legal fees can considerably reduce an estate’s value.

That is why probate must be taken into account during the estate planning process, and it’s why you should plan your estate with help from an attorney who has substantial experience in Florida’s probate courts.

You Must Have the Right Legal Counsel When You Plan Your Estate

Florida law provides for two types of probate administration: formal administration and summary administration. Summary administration takes place when a decedent’s probatable assets are valued at or below $75,000, or when the decedent has been dead for at least two years. Most other estates in Florida are subject to formal probate administration.

Probate becomes even more complicated if a decedent also had assets in different states. For example, if you resided in Massachusetts, but you owned a condo in Boca Raton, the condo must be probated in Florida.

Retaining a Fort Lauderdale probate attorney now will help the executor of your estate – when that time comes – to avoid unnecessary delays and costs that could reduce the inheritance your loved ones receive. By developing the right estate plan with an attorney’s help, you can reduce the cost of probate or entirely avoid the procedure.

Can Your Probate Attorney Help You Reduce Your Estate Taxes?

As a Floridian, you are also subject to federal estate taxes if the value of your estate exceeds the exemption amount. If the total value of your estate is below $11.58 million (as of 2020), your estate will pay neither state nor federal estate taxes.

Should your assets approach the exemption amount, Fort Lauderdale probate attorney Marc Brown can explore ways to exclude particular assets and properties from your estate. Not everything that you own is necessarily part of your estate. Your probatable assets include:

  • Investment accounts and bank accounts that are solely in your name
  • A life insurance policy, individual retirement account, or annuity contract payable to your estate
  • Real estate titled solely in your name, or in your name and another person’s as tenants in common, unless it is homestead property

Attorney Marc Brown Can Help You Minimize Probate Costs and Estate Taxes

By working with a skilled estate planning lawyer from the very beginning, you can ensure that your estate plan is sound, secure, and fully compliant with all state and federal laws. The law firm of Marc Brown, P.A. advises clients regarding the full range of Florida probate matters.

If you are ready to begin the estate planning process, if you have been named the executor of an estate, or if you have any other questions or concerns regarding probate or estate planning, call our Fort Lauderdale offices at 954-566-5678 to schedule a meeting with attorney Marc Brown. Your first consultation is provided at no cost and with no obligation.