My Spouse Passed Away—Will Our Assets Go Through Probate?
As described by the Florida Courts, probate is the court supervised process whereby a person’s property/assets are identified, valid creditors are paid, and distributions are eventually made to the rightful heirs. For a number of different reasons, many people want to avoid probate. It can sometimes be a slow and frustrating process.
This raises an important question: Do I still have to go through probate if my spouse is leaving the assets directly to me? The answer is technically yes, but many (maybe all) of your assets may be able to avoid probate. Here, our Tampa estate planning lawyers provide an overview of Florida’s inheritance laws and we explain which assets will go through probate when a spouse passes away.
These Assets Will Not Go Through Probate
If your spouse passes away, not all of your assets will go through probate. Florida allows many of your assets to avoid the probate process in the scenario. Here are three categories of assets that will avoid probate:
- Property Held Jointly By a Married Couple: When you own something jointly with your spouse in Florida, you obtain a ‘right of survivorship’ on that property. This applies both to property that is titled (such as a house or a joint bank account) and property that is not titled (furniture, appliances, etc). Any property held jointly with your spouse will go directly to you when your spouse passes away. It becomes your sole property. No probate is required.
- Assets With a Clear Beneficiary Designation: Certain assets with a clear beneficiary designation avoid the probate process. For example, most retirement accounts do not have to go through probate. Assuming beneficiaries are designated properly, those assets can pass directly to the heir without going through probate.
- Assets Held in a Trust: If your spouse set up a revocable living trust on your behalf, property held in that trust will avoid the probate process. Generally, most assets held trusts avoid probate in Florida.
These Assets Will Go Through Probate
To be clear, not all assets pass directly to a spouse. If your partner passed away in Florida, the following property/assets are subject to probate:
- Anything in Your Spouse’s Name Alone: If your spouse held any property individually, that property must go through probate—unless there is a valid beneficiary designation or it has been properly assigned to a trust. As an example, imagine that your spouse owned a rental property that pre-dated your marriage. Your name was never added to the home and it remained an independent asset. In Florida, that rental property would be subject to the probate process.
Call Our Tampa Estate Planning Attorney for Legal Guidance
At Bubley & Bubley, P.A., our Florida estate planning lawyers are passionate, reliable advocates for our clients. If your spouse passed away and you have questions about your rights, please contact us today. With a legal office in Tampa, we provide estate planning services throughout all of Hillsborough County, including in Plant City, Riverview, Brandon, Carrollwood, and Valrico.