The top of a decade can present an opportunity to reflect on years past and look forward to years ahead. For many, that can involve securing their legacy. Whether a person is 40 or 80, it is never too early to consider a will — which means considering probate. 

Probate, as defined by the Florida Bar, is a court-supervised process that facilitates asset management for a decedent (the legal term referring to the person who has passed). The process aims to gather and distribute assets after paying any expenses the decedent pay possess (funeral costs and outstanding debts). It is important for a person to admit their will to probate or have it readily accessible for after they pass — as a will that is not admitted to this process has no legal power to authorize asset distribution. 

It is important, though, to recognize that probate only applies to assets under the decedent’s sole ownership. These include real estate and property as well as contracts like life insurance and retirement policies where payouts go directly to the decedent’s estate (as opposed to a beneficiary). 

As Findlaw notes, there are ways to avoid probate by designating direct beneficiaries or even by gifting property before a person passes. This can be useful to streamline estate distribution in some cases. In the instance of no will or solely owning property though, probate is a necessary step. 

It does not have to be hard either. Being prepared before passing can lessen the headache of the loved ones left behind. It is recommended to seek out legal advice in order to answer questions and to better prepare for the years ahead.