There are many methods for Florida individuals to plan what should happen to their property when they die. There are a myriad of personal considerations including your age, marital status, and whether you have children. There are also financial factors, such as the value of your physical assets, income, retirement plans, investments and business ownership interests. The “simple will” is still the most common method to plan for the distribution of your property and assets after death. However, another method which has several advantages to it is a revocable living trust.
What is a revocable trust and how does it work?
A revocable trust is a legal document where you transfer ownership of certain monies or properties to the trust and appoint a trustee to manage them. The trust document also directs the trustee how and to whom to distribute what is left in the trust when you die. You have to actually transfer the ownership of the assets to the trust. However, you can appoint yourself as the trustee and maintain control while you are alive. The revocable trust can be changed or cancelled at any time. A bank account, stock portfolio or real estate owned by the trust will be distributed as directed by the trust document.
Why choose a revocable trust over a simple will
A simple will is generally easier, cheaper and faster to create. In some situations, a simple will is sufficient or even preferable to a revocable trust. However, revocable trusts offer several estate planning advantages - even for those who are not wealthy:
Avoid Probate – When a person dies with a will, their assets are distributed by a court process known as probate. This process can be lengthy and expensive. Property placed in a trust is not probated. This is particularly helpful if the person owned properties in different states and would have to bring separate probate actions in each state. Further, under Florida law creditors can file claims against the trust estate for two years. If there is probate, the law provides that this period can be shortened to only three months. Note that if a particular piece of property is left out of the trust, it will likely go through probate.
Guardianship- If you become incapacitated, the trust can appoint a guardian and direct them in managing your affairs without having to go to court in an expensive guardianship proceeding.
Privacy- Your will must be filed with the court and becomes a public document when you die while a trust can remain private.
Estate taxes- In large estates where there may be estate taxes, a trust can help to avoid estate taxes. Disputes- Trusts are generally more difficult to challenge on the grounds of mental incapacity or fraud. Estate planning is complicated and requires the assistance of a knowledgeable Florida estate planning and elder law attorney. You need expert legal advice since the laws are complex and are constantly changing.