By: Julie Ickes, J.D., LL.M. ~ Jackson Law Group

Many people have either a fear of probate or are confused about its meaning. However, probate generally does not deserve the bad feelings its name evokes. On one hand, sometimes the probate process is beneficial, whereas on the other hand, sometimes it may be more efficient and cost-effective to create a plan to avoid probate.

Probate is simply the court process to formally transfer assets owned by the decedent, or the person who died, to his or her beneficiaries or heirs. One substantial benefit of opening a probate is there is a system to handle any challenges to the will in a structured manner. Another main benefit of a formal probate in Florida is that provides a straightforward process to address any creditor claims on the estate. These claims often consist of the last medical expenses of an individual and any outstanding creditors a person has at the time of his or her death. After all creditors are properly notified and the creditor claims period has ended, any claims submitted thereafter by creditors are barred, or fail. Finally, since a court oversees the probate process, the judge can resolve any additional disputes within the probate case.

Not every estate requires a probate. Some assets bypass probate because the decedent named a beneficiary on the asset, which is common with a bank account or an IRA. Or, an individual may have created a trust, and instead of a probate administration which requires court fees and supervision, a trust is administered privately by a trustee. An attorney can help guide one through the estate, probate or trust administration process when a loved one passes away.

While some people may want to avoid probate because of the cost or time it may add to administer an estate, the benefit of a streamlined process that allows for addressing creditor claims and resolving any disputes can be beneficial. Of course, it is recommended that you consult a qualified estate planning attorney to obtain advice for your personal circumstances.

Julie Ickes is an associate at Jackson Law Group. Her primary practice areas are Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration and Guardianships. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College. Julie earned her J.D. and LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.