Probate and Non-probate Assets

Dunedin estate attorneys meetingOne of the important aspects of developing an estate plan is using non-probate assets. Your Dunedin estate attorney can explain the key differences between probate and non-probate assets.

Probate Assets

Your Dunedin estate attorney may tell you that probate assets are those that are typically subject to probate. They may include assets that are listed in the decedent’s will or that are those mentioned in the laws of intestacy if the decedent had no will or his or her will was declared invalid. Your Dunedin lawyer may further simplify this definition by saying that probate assets are usually those that are titled in the decedent’s name.

For example, real property, bank accounts, CDs, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, vehicles, personal property, royalties from intellectual property, personal loans, an interest in a pending lawsuit and money are commonly probate assets. However, if there is a right of survivorship that is attached to the asset or if the asset is subject to a payable-on-death designation, the asset is usually not a probate asset. Additionally, many jurisdictions have a protected homestead law to prevent the decedent’s primary residence from being passed through the probate process. Furthermore, if any of these assets allowed the decedent to establish a beneficiary upon death, the asset is usually not subject to probate.

Non-Probate Assets

In contrast, your Dunedin lawyer can explain that non-probate assets are those that do not pass under the terms of a will or the laws of intestacy. Additionally, your Dunedin estate attorney may provide you with a list of typical non-probate assets. For example, life insurance is commonly a large portion of non-probate assets as long as the estate or the personal representative is not named as the beneficiary. Employer-provided retirement plans are common non-probate assets, assuming that the testator is not married. Likewise, funds that are part of a person’s Individual Retirement Account are usually non-probate assets. So are assets that are part of trusts and assets that pass with a right of survivorship, such as real property or a bank account.

Contact the Coleman Law Firm at 727-461-7474 for help with your estate plan.

Probate Advantages and Disadvantages

While you may have heard many individuals talk about the hideous probate process and the desperate need to avoid them, your Largo estate planning attorney can explain the advantages as well as disadvantages of the probate process. Being more informed on this topic can help you construct a more effective estate plan with your Largo estate planning attorney.

Disadvantages of Probate

Your Largo estate planning attorney can explain that the most significant disadvantage of probate is that it takes too much time. While life insurance proceeds may go to the beneficiary shortly after the necessary forms and proof of death are completed or a property may immediately transfer if there is a right of survivorship attached to it, probate can take many months or even years. This means that the beneficiaries may not receive needed assets until well after the decedent dies. Another disadvantage that your Largo estate planning lawyer may discuss with you is the cumbersome characteristic of probate. Probating a will can involve the need to file numerous documents with the court.

How to Avoid Probate

Due to these disadvantages, your Largo estate planning lawyer may recommend attempting to avoid probate. This can be accomplished through several avenues, such as by providing inter vivos gifts, adding a transfer on death characteristic for bank accounts, joint tenancies with the right of survivorship for certain bank accounts and real property, trusts and life insurance policies.

Advantages of Probate

Probate offers some advantages. For example, it usually provides greater protection to your beneficiaries. Additionally, it has an established set of rules to help handle creditor claims of the estate.

Unexpected Circumstances

While many individuals have the goal of avoiding probate, they may be unaware of the consequences that can occur when this route is taken. For example, if a person is added to an account so that the account can pass automatically at death, that individual may make charges that the original owner did not authorize. Likewise, a person may use up their gift tax and have their beneficiaries liable for estate tax.

If you would like more information on the probate process, contact the Coleman Law Firm at 727-461-7474.

Community Property in Florida

estate planning attorney in Clearwater Scales of JusticeAlthough Florida is considered a non-community property state, Florida probate law does recognize that assets and the proceeds from those assets acquired by an individual while living in a community property state may retain their community property character. A estate planning attorney in Clearwater can explain if it is beneficial to retain the assets as community property and the issues that affect how such assets are distributed.


In addition to the actual assets that were acquired or became community property in a community property jurisdiction, a estate planning attorney in Clearwater emphasizes that the law also applies to:
• Assets acquired with the proceeds or income from community property, or
• Assets that are traceable to community property.


A presumption is a fact that the law presumes, but which can be overcome by evidence to the contrary. Florida law presumes personal property acquired in a community property jurisdiction is community property, but real property located in Florida is presumed not to be community property, with some exceptions.

Distribution after the Death of the First Spouse

If an asset is deemed to be community property, then, upon the death of the first spouse, one-half of that asset belongs to the surviving spouse and is not subject to any testamentary disposition of the deceased spouse. The other-half is subject to the deceased spouse’s testamentary disposition.

Stepped-up Basis

The benefit for a surviving spouse in holding assets as community property is that under federal estate planning tax law, the entire value of community property receives an adjustment to a valuation as of the date of death. If the property was held as non-community property, the income tax basis of the deceased spouse’s property and only one-half of the jointly owned assets receive a date of death valuation.

Contact an Estate Law Firm in Clearwater for Legal Advice

It is possible to sever the community property nature of assets without intending to do so. It is important to have a clear understanding of the goals of the individuals and a complete knowledge of the complexities and nuances of the law. For all your estate planning planning concerns, call the Coleman Law Firm at 727-461-7474.