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FAQ: If I have a will, won’t that keep my family from having to deal with probate after my death?

No. A will is a formal legal document that contains instructions on which property or money goes to which person, but it doesn’t mean probate won’t be necessary.

Your will is a set of instructions to the probate judge, telling him or her about your intentions with your property. Any assets that only have your name on them—like a sole ownership bank account or real estate you own by yourself—will be subject to this process; your family will not be able to change the ownership of these assets without a court order.

The probate process involves “proving” the will—verifying that the document your family has submitted is an original, verifying that witnesses have signed in the way Florida law requires, and if not, going through some extra steps to verify that the will is truly your will.

Depending on the type of probate case, the next steps involve a Personal Representative being appointed to pay creditors and then distribute assets, or a court order being signed so assets can be transferred to their new owners.

All of this formality can be costly and time-consuming, but the process is in place to make sure your wishes are carried out and there are checks and balances in place to keep an ill-intentioned family member from taking what’s not theirs.

Probate can be avoided in a few different ways, which we’ll cover in a future blog post.