Plotting Against Probate: Part 3

In the last 2 blogs, I talked about transfer on death types of deeds for real estate, known in Florida as “Enhanced Life Estate Deeds” or “Ladybird Deeds”. I also explained the advantages of a Living Trust.

This article will discuss methods you can use that do not involve specific legal documents. Disclosure: The discussion below does not apply to all your assets. As always, I recommend speaking with a Florida Bar Certified Elder Law Attorney who can advise you regarding all the long-term ramifications and consequences of each type of planning in your particular case.

Joint ownership

If you own property with another individual this ownership could include the “right of survivorship.” In this case, the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies and no probate will be necessary to transfer the property. Usually, a death certificate is required to show that the property is held solely by the surviving owner. You can own real estate, bank accounts, and certain other types of property in this manner. Caution: just having both names on the instrument of ownership may not be sufficient; other words, such as “rights of survivorship” are required or you might end up owning only half the property when the other owner dies.

Payable-on-death or Transfer-on-death designations for bank and brokerage accounts

In Florida, you can add a “payable–on-death” (POD) designation to bank accounts. For brokerage and securities accounts this is called “transfer-on-death” (TOD). You still control the assets in the account and the POD beneficiary has no rights to the assets while you are alive. At your death the account passes directly to the beneficiary without probate proceedings.

Transfer-on-death registration for vehicles

Florida does not allow transfer-on-death registration of vehicles. You can create a right of survivorship by owning the vehicle with someone else and using the work “or” between your names. If you have a living trust, you can assign the vehicle to your trust. These methods would avoid probate.

Even if you do no planning to avoid probate, your estate may qualify for Florida’s simplified “summary probate” procedure. I will discuss this probate shortcut in following articles.

Debra G. Simms

 To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

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