One of the primary motivations for creating an estate plan for the average person is to ensure that their loved ones are provided for after their death. One thing that people often fail to consider though, is how long it will take for their loved ones to actually receive the assets designated for them in that estate plan. With that in mind, a probate attorney at Kulas & Crawford explains how long it will take for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance in Florida.
What Happens after Your Death?
Understandably, most people prefer not to dwell on the prospect of their own death and what happens afterward. If your goal is to ensure that your loved ones are financially secure in your absence, however, you need to know what happens after your death. Most estates are required to go through the legal process known as “probate.” Probate ensures that all estate assets are accounted for and eventually transferred to the new owners. Probate also ensures that all debts of the estate are paid before those assets are transferred out of the estate. If a beneficiary’s inheritance includes probate assets, the beneficiary may need to wait until the end of the probate process before receiving his/her inheritance.
How Long Does It Take to Probate an Estate?
If your family will be depending on the assets you leave behind to pay bills and for basic living expenses, you obviously want those assets to be transferred to them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that can be problematic if the estate requires formal probate. In Florida, creditors have three months from the date of notification to file claims against an estate. In reality, this means that it takes a minimum of four to five months for an estate to make it through the formal probate process. More often, it takes a year or longer to conclude the probate of an estate.
If the estate qualifies for a small estate alternative to formal probate it won’t take as long for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritances. In Florida, estates valued at less than $75,000 may qualify for this option. If the estate does qualify, loved ones may receive assets in about 30 days.
What Can You Do to Shorten the Time?
If you are concerned about the amount of time it may take for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritances, including probate avoidance strategies and tools in your estate plan is advisable. For example, not all assets are considered probate assets. Non-probate assets bypass the probate process entirely, meaning they can be distributed to your loved ones very shortly after your death. Common non-probate assets include:
- Trust assets
- Life insurance proceeds
- Certain jointly held property
- Certain retirement/pension accounts
- Assets held in accounts designated as “Payable on Death (POD)”
Using a trust to distribute your estate assets is one of the simplest things you can do to ensure that your loved ones will not have to wait to receive much needed assets. Because assets held in a trust do not go through the probate process, they can be distributed as soon after your death as you dictate within the terms of the trust agreement. Life insurance proceeds also bypass probate and can be paid out almost immediately after the death of the insured in most cases.
To ensure that your loved ones don’t suffer financially following your death, work closely with your estate planning attorney to create an estate plan that doesn’t require them to wait for assets to be distributed.
Contact a Probate Attorney
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the Florida probate process, please contact an experienced Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach probate attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.