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3 Myths about Small Asset Estates

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In Florida, small asset estates are estates that are worth $75,000 or less. These estates are also eligible for summary administration, which provides a speedy process for disposing of estates without the long wait brought on by traditional probate requirements. The common misconception is that the smaller the estate, the simpler the probate process. This is not always the case. On the other hand, individuals must be careful when dealing with small estates. It may end up costing more and less of an easy process than imagined. The following are three myths about small estates:

Less Costly

A traditional probate with large amounts at stake tends to be costly.  The fees include court costs and costs associated with selling a home or even paying off creditors.  Even where smaller amounts are at stake, a small estate can still incur unanticipated costs.  The reason why a small estate may still incur considerable cost is because there is not much property or assets to pay for costs associated with the estate. For example, a small estate going through a traditional probate process will need a personal representative.  That personal representative may be compensated for his or her work in disposing of assets. These expenses take away from any residual that is left to be distributed to beneficiaries. At the end, the entire process may take a significant amount from the assets that are meant for distribution.

Better to Die Without a Will

Individuals who have small estates may believe it is better to die intestate (dying without a will). The justification for this thinking is that the estate will not have enough to distribute. Thus, a will is not necessary.  After debts and other obligations are paid, the estate will not have assets to distribute. In addition, the choice as to where the deceased’s assets are going is left up to the state. No matter the amount in one’s assets, it is always better to memorialize intentions than to leave it up to the courts to decide on your behalf.  The other option of putting one’s assets into a living trust is an ideal option for those who do not want to use a will. The living trust avoids the probate process and will likely save on money.

Summary Administration May Not Be Best

As briefly discussed above, summary administration is a simple administration process for smaller estates in Florida.  To become eligible for summary administration, the estate must amount to $75,000 or less and at least two years has passed since the date of death.  For one, summary administration does not utilize a personal representative. Unlike the normal probate process, a petitioner is the party that steers the summary administration. However, the petitioner does not have the same rights as a personal representative who can sell, dispose, collect and work as a fiduciary for the estate. Because of this lack, many of the activities that are part of a successful probate process may take longer. The longer the process takes the more costly it becomes.

West Palm Beach Estate Planning Attorney

We provide legal assistance to individuals who wish to explore estate planning options. The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. has years of experience in estate planning law and will tailor advice based on your unique circumstances. Call the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. in West Palm Beach to determine the options that best fits your estate planning needs.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0735/0735.html

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