Many Florida residents begin the estate planning process with a variety of goals in mind, but with one in particular of importance: avoid probate as much as possible. However, depending on how an estate plan is drafted, it may be inevitable that heirs and beneficiaries will need to be involved with the probate process in some respect. So, what do our readers need to know about the probate process?

Well, for starters, it is important to realize that the probate process is in place to ensure that a deceased person’s assets are passed on in a valid and legal manner to a valid and legal heir or beneficiary. To ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible, a will can direct a probate court – and the executor of the estate – as to how assets should be divided among heirs and beneficiaries. During the process, the full extent of the assets owned by the deceased person is examined, as is the person’s debt, and then those debts and taxes are addressed before assets are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries.

One of the main reasons that people want to avoid probate is because of the time and expense involved. In general, the more complicated the estate – as in, the more assets and debts involved – the longer the probate process can take to be completed.

However, there are certain types of assets that can avoid the probate process. For example, joint bank accounts may be set up to automatically transfer ownership upon death, and the payout for life insurance policies can also avoid probate. Each estate plan is different, so the probate process will be different for each family as well.