No one particularly likes to think about the end of their own life, but being prepared well before you or a loved one needs to deal with that period of your life will save your family money, time, and difficulty later. The goal of estate planning should be to minimize decision-making later and to create a pathway and structure for things like asset disposition and end of life decisions. Having an experienced Florida estate attorney to review your situation and help guide you through the decision-making process can make all the difference between your estate being tied up in endless probate or your loved ones having what they need when you leave them or become incapacitated.
Generally speaking, if someone dies with a will then the estate must go through a period called "probate" where the courts and an appointed administrator accounts for the assets, claims against the estate, and verifies the remaining against the will and distributes accordingly. Small estate laws have been enacted by many states so that heirs can obtain their property without probate or with considerably shortened probate periods and proceedings. These type of estate administrations are called "summary administrations." Florida is one of the states which allows for summary administration. Under Florida statute, if an estate is valued less than $75,000, then any of the beneficiaries may petition the court for their portion. The court may order the distribution of the asset(s) based on the petition.
With larger states the risk makes this just not possible, and Florida law maintains that estates larger than $75,000 use the probate system in an administration called "formal administration." While this can be lengthy and expensive, there are many advantages to having someone appointed by the court handling the estate. Formal administration by the court also comes with legal authority to review financial assets with banks and other holdings.
Sometimes, depending on an individual's situation and amount of assets, to avoid the snares of probate or tax issues that sometimes arise with a probate administration, a trust may be used. Understanding which of these is better for your situation is certainly something that an attorney can help determine, as well as, walk you through those steps that are needed to create a will or trust.
Creating a complete estate plan for your life while you are of sound mind can save you and those around you from having to make them later.