The Florida probate process is designed to distribute the assets of the deceased to the beneficiaries of the estate. However, the debts of the deceased are also distributed to said heirs, especially if the deceased does not have a proper estate plan.
How are Probate Debts of the Decedent Discovered?
Part of the probate process requires that a document called the “Letter to Creditors” be issued so that any debts accumulated by the decedent may be discovered and counted against the assets of the estate.
Examples of probate debts could include unpaid credit cards, mortgages, promissory notes, outstanding invoices, and more.
Additionally, if the deceased is over the age of 55, then Medicare must be notified for outstanding debts of the decedent.
What can I do to Avoid My Loved Ones from Incurring these Probate Debts When I Die?
The only way to avoid these debts from being counted against the assets of the estate is with proper Estate Planning. This includes not only wills, trusts, and power of attorneys, but also other key factors that will prevent an asset from being seized by a creditor.
For example, if you have a car that is paid off, then you should consider adding an additional person as a co-owner of the vehicle, such as an adult child, sibling, or other trusted individual who you would want that asset to be distributed to anyway.
The same applies for houses, bank accounts, and any other important assets to which you can register ownership with your city, county, or the State of Florida, although there are also potential risks of doing so. Estate planning is highly personal and has to be tailored to your individual needs and wishes.