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Drude Tomori Law

Skilled and Dedicated St. Petersburg Probate Lawyer

Rest Easy Knowing Your Estate Administration Is Being Taken Care of Appropriately

Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone passes away. It involves validating the deceased person’s will, settling outstanding debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. While the probate process can seem daunting, especially during a time of grief, it plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transfer of assets and safeguarding the deceased’s intentions.

At Drude Tomori Law, our St. Petersburg estate planning and probate legal team guides estate administrators in Florida through the probate process and provides key technical assistance to help them get through probate most efficiently. Below, we delve into what probate entails under Florida law and explore estate planning strategies that can help you avoid the probate process altogether.

Contact our office for help with estate planning or guidance in the probate process as an executor (personal representative) or beneficiary. We help clients in communities throughout Florida, including St. Petersburg, Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, and Miami.

Understanding Probate under Florida Law

In Florida, probate is overseen by the circuit court in the county where the deceased person resided. The process involves the following key steps:

  1. Filing the Petition: The first step in probate is to file a petition with the court. If the deceased person left a will, the named executor initiates the process. In the absence of a will, a family member or close friend may petition to be appointed as the personal representative.

  2. Asset Inventory: The personal representative is responsible for identifying and valuing the assets owned by the deceased person. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and other possessions.

  3. Paying Debts and Taxes: Outstanding debts and taxes are paid using the assets of the estate. The personal representative ensures that all valid claims are settled before distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

  4. Distribution of Assets: Once all debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed according to the terms outlined in the will or as determined by Florida’s intestacy laws if there is no will. The court supervises this distribution to ensure fairness and compliance with the law.

Estate Planning Strategies to Avoid Probate

While probate serves an important purpose, many individuals seek to minimize its impact through proactive estate planning. Transferring assets outside of probate is faster and less burdensome to the estate, and relieves heirs and beneficiaries of stress and anxiety during a difficult time in their lives. Avoiding probate is therefore a laudable goal of estate planning and an area where the help of an estate planning lawyer is key. Below are just a few of the strategies you could employ to bypass or simplify the probate process:

  • Revocable Living Trusts: Establishing a revocable living trust allows you to transfer your assets into the trust during your lifetime. As the trustee, you retain control and can make changes as desired. Upon your passing, the assets in the trust are distributed to your chosen beneficiaries without the need for probate.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death bank accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries directly. By specifying these beneficiaries, the assets are transferred to them outside of the probate process.
  • Joint Ownership: Holding assets jointly with rights of survivorship can ensure a seamless transfer to the surviving owner(s) upon your death. Common examples include joint bank accounts or jointly owned real estate. Some methods of jointly-titled real estate fail to accomplish the purpose of avoiding probate, though, so it’s important to get legal advice regarding the best way to title property to meet all your needs.
  • Gifting: You could consider gifting assets to loved ones during your lifetime. By reducing your estate’s value, you can potentially minimize the assets subject to probate. However, it’s important to consult with an attorney to navigate tax implications and other legal considerations.
  • Establishing Lady Bird Deeds: Also known as an enhanced life estate deed, a Lady Bird Deed allows you to retain control over your real property during your lifetime while naming beneficiaries who will automatically inherit the property upon your passing. This strategy can help bypass the probate process for real estate assets.

Quality Advice and Professional Assistance in Florida Probate Matters

At Drude Tomori Law, PA, lead attorney Rachel Drude-Tomori brings her expertise and creative problem-solving skills to craft customized estate planning solutions. With a deep understanding of her clients’ needs, goals, and family dynamics, Rachel is dedicated to helping individuals and families navigate the probate process and explore strategies to avoid it.

By engaging the services of Drude Tomori Law, you can benefit from Rachel’s attentive approach and wealth of experience in estate planning, elder law, and probate law. She will carefully listen to your concerns, provide personalized guidance, and develop a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your specific circumstances.

Navigating the complexities of probate and estate planning can be challenging, but with the expertise of Drude Tomori Law, you can rest assured that your wishes will be protected, your loved ones provided for, and your estate preserved. Contact our St. Petersburg law office today to schedule a consultation and embark on the path toward effective estate planning and a smoother probate process.

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