Walter L. Woodrick

The good, the bad and the ugly of probate

“My assets won’t have to go through probate when I die. I have a will.” 

“My attorney said that probate is fast and inexpensive.” 

“I don’t have a will, but I’ve told my family who is supposed to get what.” Hopefully these are not words that have come out of your mouth. Gulf and Franklin County residents are too savvy, educated, and experienced to say or believe those statements!

Probate is the legal process that a deceased person’s estate must pass through in order for title to be legally granted to the next owner. The creation of the probate system had good intentions: to make sure a decedent’s bills and debts were paid, to clear any title confusion or disagreements, and to make sure everyone who had an interest in the person’s estate had an opportunity to speak up. 

But, probate can be expensive – roughly 3 to 5% of the value of the assets. Probate can take a long time – from six months to several years. Probate is public – just look in the classifieds section of this publication and you can see probate being publicized for recently deceased persons. You can even ride your golf cart over to the courthouse and ask to read that person’s will. 

Can the downsides of probate be reduced? The easiest way is to not have any assets, but the downside to that is pretty negative! If you do have assets, and if you don’t have a will, your estate will go through probate and the current laws will determine who gets your stuff. If you have a will, your assets are going through probate, but the courts will try to follow your instructions in the will. Probate can be avoided. For example, assets held in a revocable living trust or with a surviving joint owner can avoid probate.

A qualified attorney can help you determine a good solution for you. Each situation can be unique, and there may be unique solutions for you. One of the worst things you can do for your heirs is to do nothing.

Walter L. Woodrick is a Gulf County resident, a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, and the author of two books. His website is Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. Individual tax or legal matters should be discussed with your tax or legal professional. 544184-1

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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