A will is often the first thing that comes to mind when you think about creating a plan for your assets after death.
However, you have other options that may allow your family to avoid the sometimes painstaking process of probate.
Bank accounts and securities
Florida law allows you to designate a beneficiary as “payable-on-death” for savings and checking accounts and CDs. Additionally, you can list a “transfer-on-death” beneficiary for any stocks and bonds registered in your name. In both cases, the accounts and securities would go directly to the person named without going through the probate process.
Many estate plans include a living trust, which is similar to a will. However, a living trust bypasses probate and allows a trustee to distribute your assets after your death. While you are alive, you remain in control of the trust, acting as trustee yourself or selecting another to manage the fund on your behalf. You also list a successor trustee who will ensure your assets go directly to the beneficiaries named in your trust without anyone contesting it.
Florida also allows the transfer of assets to a joint owner of an asset through the legal concept of the “right of survivorship.” For example, if you own real estate or a vehicle with your spouse, Florida recognizes tenancy by the entirety and would allow the automatic transfer of ownership to the surviving spouse. This is especially important because Florida does not allow transfer-on-death deeds for real estate or registration for vehicles.
Remember your estate plan is customizable and can include both a will and a trust.