How do you avoid probate on a small bank account?


Attorney Tom Olsen: Let’s go to Janice in Apopka. Janice, you’re on News 96.5, go ahead.

Janice: Hi. I have a probate question.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Go ahead, Janice.

Janice: Yes. If a person, a married person with no children dies without a will and the spouse does not want to step up and open up a probate and become a personal representative --

Attorney Tom Olsen: All right.

Janice: Can the state or the court compel a family member to open up a probate?

Attorney Tom Olsen: No, but any interested person can open up a probate. That would be anybody that stood to inherit money under somebody’s will, but it could also be a creditor, somebody that is owed by the person that passed away.

Janice: Right, but the estate would be insolvent, probably less than 2 or 3000 dollars. Would that really likely happen?

Attorney Tom Olsen: No, because it’s hard to get a probate done for less than 2 or 3000 dollars. So it probably may not be worthwhile. Janice, what is the asset that we’re talking about? Is it simply just a bank account?

Janice: Yes, a bank account and an old car.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Okay. So Janice, a couple of things about that. Number one, in the State of Florida, cars, boats, motorcycles, they do not have to go through probate.

Janice: Right.

Attorney Tom Olsen: The wife could simply go down to the Tag and Title office. If the car is in the husband’s name only, they would re-title it into her name. Number two, there is a special type of probate available in Florida called an Administration Unnecessary, and it is available to you when the values of the estate, in this case a 2 or 3000-dollar bank account, is less than the amount of the funeral. Let’s say the funeral expenses were 5000 bucks.

Janice: Right.

Attorney Tom Olsen: When the value of the estate is less than the funeral expenses, the clerks will give you the forms, run you through it step by step, it’s called an Administration Unnecessary, and the end result will be a court order that will allow the wife, or whoever is entitled to the funds or whoever paid the funeral expenses, to go down to the bank and get that money out of the bank. Janice, does that help you?

Janice: Yes, it helps me, because that’s my sister-in-law and she was forced to open up a full-blown probate.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Now who forced her to do that, Janice?

Janice: Not forced her, but she consulted an attorney who told her she needed to open up a full-blown probate and I didn’t think it was necessary.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Then she may have been given some bad advice, Janice.

Janice: Yes.

Attorney Tom Olsen: And of course, she is always welcome to call our office. You know, we’re all about avoiding probate, but at the end of the day, probate is one of the things we do all day every day.