Probate is the legal process by which a will is proven valid or not and, in the absence of a will, the process is required in order to transfer ownership of the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries.

The process can be lengthy and costly, typically requiring court appearances and lots of paperwork.

There are two main types of probate administration under Florida law: Formal administration and summary administration. In addition, there is a non-court supervised proceeding called “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration”, but it is only for limited circumstances.

Probate administration only applies to “probate assets” which are assets that are owned solely by the decedent at the time of their death or by the decedent and one or more co-owners without a provision for automatic succession of ownership. Probate assets include, but are not limited to, bank or investment accounts, life insurance policies, annuity contracts, IRAs, and real estate.

A well-crafted estate will increase the proportion of your estate that ultimately goes to your beneficiaries and decrease the amount of time they have to wait for their inheritance.

Some estate planning tools that will help you avoid probate include setting up a revocable living trust, which exempts your assets from probate. Establishing joint ownership of certain assets to exclude them from the probate process or gifting certain assets while you’re still alive.