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Paul E. Riffel Tampa Estate Planning Attorney

Think You Are Able to Avoid Probate? 3 Common Mistakes We See


Do you think that your estate will not have to go through the probate process because you have done your homework and created a thoughtful and detailed will? While having a will may be the right way to go, the fact that you have a will does not, by itself, allow your estate to avoid probate. This may be one of three common mistakes we see when the probate process is misunderstood.

1. Having a Will Is No Guarantee. A will may be viewed as a set of instructions for your personal representative, letting them know what you want to happen with all of your assets, whether those assets include a house, a vehicle, bank or brokerage accounts or personal items. Having those instructions written down does not change the fact that the assets may be subject to probate. Your personal representative still faces the task of having to “probate” the will, and this may take time and money from your estate. If you want to keep your assets out of probate, you should consider other estate planning tools you can put in place.

2. Not Putting Everything into a Trust. Perhaps you learned about the probate process and discovered that a revocable trust may be a good way to avoid putting your estate through probate. So, you created a revocable trust and put your assets into the trust. Now you are all set, right? Unfortunately, you may not always be set at this point. Many people put all of their assets into a revocable trust at the time the trust is created. Life, however, changes all the time. You may sell some assets and acquire others and forget to put your new assets into the trust along the way. Only assets in the trust will avoid probate. Any other assets you may have acquired but forgot to put into the trust will have to go through probate.

3. You Have Conflicting Information in Your Estate Plan. If what you wrote in your will does not match the terms of the trust document, then the trust document may prevail. Despite this rule of thumb, however, any inconsistencies may be reviewed by a probate court for final determination.

To learn more about how to effectively avoid probate proceedings, our office is available to help. Please reach out to us to schedule an appointment. 

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