Are you a private person? Do you hope to keep your estate private when you pass away? How can you do that? Have you recently created your last will and testament, but unsure whether your estate may still have to be probated?  First, having a last will and testament in place is excellent. Unfortunately, the fact that you have a will does not, by itself, allow your estate to avoid probate. Here are three common mistakes that are made when trying to avoid probate.

1. You make the mistake of thinking you do not need any other estate planning tools, only a last will and testament.  However, if you want to keep your assets out of probate, you need to consider other estate planning tools.  You need to know that your Florida will is a set of instructions for your personal representative, a trusted person you selected. Your will lets your personal representative know how to distribute all of your assets, which may include a house, a vehicle, bank or brokerage accounts or personal items. Now, even though you have written down instructions in your will it does not change the fact that the assets may be subject to probate. Your personal representative may be required to probate your will, and this could possibly take time and money from your estate. 

2. You create a trust but make the mistake of not keeping it up-to-date. We recommend you meet with your Florida estate planning attorney to create a trust. He may advise you that a revocable trust could be a good way to avoid putting your estate through probate. Be careful, though, now that you have created your revocable trust and put your assets into the trust, your work may not be done if you want your estate to avoid probate. If you add or delete any assets, you must update your trust.  For example, you may sell some assets, acquire some assets but forget to put your new assets into your trust. Be aware that only the assets in your trust will avoid probate. Any other assets you may have acquired but forgot to put into the trust may have to go through probate.

3. You make a mistake by not keeping the information in your will and trust the same. You must be careful to not have any information in your will and in your trust that does not match. If the information in your will does not match the terms of your trust document, then your trust document may prevail. If there are any inconsistencies they may have to be reviewed by a probate court.

Avoiding probate may be a goal, but you have to have the right documents in your estate plan. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers.  We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.