Probate is the process that is used by the court to transfer assets in a person's individual name to their heirs upon death. In some states it is called the Surrogate's Court and in others, like Florida, it is called the Probate Division of the Circuit or Civil Court.
Only assets held individually, without a designated payable on death beneficiary, go through probate. For example — life insurance in your children's name would not go through probate at your death. Another example is a bank account with payable on death beneficiaries.
It is very important to note that probate cannot be avoided simply by having a Will. Probatable assets in a Will still go through Probate, however, they pass to the people whom you have designated as proper beneficiaries. If there is no Will, then the probatable assets will pass according the state law.
When the assets pass by state law it is called intestacy. Generally, designated beneficiaries in Wills, joint owners with rights of survivorship and Trusts can avoid intestacy. Probate should be avoided, if possible, since the court process can be lengthy and expensive. It also opens your life up to the court. While many documents are not necessarily made public, they are part of the court file to be seen by judges, clerks, family members, and anyone else who finds a way to gain access.
Read more about the specific topics on Probate below. If you have any more questions on the topic, don't hesitate to contact our offices.
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