Pro­bate avoid­ance im­por­tant goal for dad of busy adult chil­dren


Ques­tion: Pro­bate avoid­ance is some­thing I want to in­clude in my es­tate plan be­cause I want to avoid dis­rupt­ing my chil­dren’s lives. Both are very busy work­ing adults with their own fam­i­lies and live out of state. I am 60, di­vorced. I don’t have much in as­sets — just cars, some bank and bro­ker­age ac­counts. Do I need a will? Should I make the chil­dren co-own­ers of my as­sets to avoid pro­bate?

An­swer: You say your es­tate is mod­est, but I do not know pre­cisely what that means, nor what the value of your es­tate will be when you pass away. If your pro­bat­able as­sets are un­der $75,000 and you have no debts when you pass away, then your es­tate might qual­ify for “summary pro­bate.” This is a quicker and less ex­pen­sive process than for­mal pro­bate that does not re­quire the ap­point­ment of a per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tive. It prob­a­bly would not be too bur­den­some for your chil­dren.

Re­gard­ing mak­ing the chil­dren co-own­ers of your as­sets, that is usu­ally un­de­sir­able as a pro­bate avoid­ance tech­nique, since it could make the as­sets vul­ner­a­ble to their cred­i­tors. In­stead, you might con­sider nam­ing them as death ben­e­fi­cia­ries of your as­sets. Then the as­sets would then pass to them di­rectly with­out pro­bate. A will is a good idea re­gard­less. If there are Joseph Karp

The Karp Law Firm, P.A. any as­sets you’ve failed to name a death ben­e­fi­ciary for, the will en­sures that the as­sets will be dis­trib­uted as you wish.

As you set up your es­tate plan, do not ne­glect to in­clude plans that are im­por­tant not just at death, but dur­ing your life­time. You should have a durable power of at­tor­ney for prop­erty to en­sure some­one (pre­sum­ably your chil­dren) can han­dle your fi­nan­cial af­fairs if you be­come dis­abled. You also need a health care sur­ro­gate nam­ing some­one to make your health care de­ci­sions if you can­not do so. It would be wise to meet with a cer­ti­fied elder law/es­tate plan­ning at­tor­ney to have the doc­u­ments prop­erly drafted.

Joseph Karp, a mem­ber of the Flor­ida and New York Bars, is a Na­tion­ally and Flor­ida Bar Cer­ti­fied Elder Law At­tor­ney and founder of The Karp Law Firm, lo­cated in Palm Beach and St. Lu­cie coun­ties. The firm as­sists clients with wills, trusts, Med­i­caid and VA ben­e­fits plan­ning, spe­cial needs plan­ning, as­set preser­va­tion, pro­bate/trust ad­min­is­tra­tion and es­tate lit­i­ga­tion.

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