A Will is a document that expresses your “will” regarding what you want done with the assets of your estate. If you are an adult, you need a Will regardless of your age, whether you are single or married and whether you own property jointly with another. You even need a Will if you have a Living Trust (it’s called a pour over Will). If you don’t have a Will, the Florida Probate Code dictates how any assets in your name will be distributed.
In order to administer property that passes from a decedent to his or her heirs by the terms of a Will, probate proceedings are necessary. In other words, if you have just a Will, property or assets in only your name must go through probate proceedings before they can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
Probate proceedings are brought in the Circuit Courts of the State of Florida. They usually take from four to six months to complete; sometimes up to a year. Federally taxable estates may take much longer. When a Will is filed in Probate Court it becomes a matter of public record and can be examined by anyone from the plain curious to the collection agent.
Probate fees can be quite expensive; and of course, all such fees can be eliminated by simply avoiding probate proceedings. However, one should not get caught up in all of the “hype” surrounding the idea that probate should be avoided at all costs. In fact, probate proceedings are not all that mysterious, nor are they necessarily complex. As with all estate planning, before you decide you must have a Living Trust in order to avoid probate, you should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in estate planning.