If you set up a Florida living trust, you can avoid the probate process and gain greater flexibility over asset distribution. Here’s how you can get started:
What Is a Florida Living Trust?
A Florida living trust is a legal document that establishes a framework which assets and property can be placed into. It is used to determine what happens to assets and funds after your death.
The trust is controlled and managed by a ‘trustee’, who can be selected in advance by the creator.
The trustee must follow the conditions of the trust to responsibly distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and act in their best interests.
A Florida living trust is different from an irrevocable trust, as you have the ability to amend the trust and its contents while you are still alive.
How to Create a Florida Living Trust?
Contact a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
If you want to set up a Florida living trust, the best advice you can receive is by contacting a Florida estate planning attorney.
With unparalleled legal expertise, they’ll be able to guide you through the process, ensuring every decision is in your family’s best interests – from asset inclusion to estate tax planning.
Talk With Your Spouse
If you’re married, then you have the option to create a shared trust. Every couple will have different reasons as to why or why not this may be a good idea, such as jointly-titled property, but it’s worth considering this as an option.
Make an Inventory of Your Assets
Next, it’s time to ensure that you have a list of every asset you own – from real estate and cars to investment holdings.
During this step, you should ensure you know exactly how each property is titled and referenced in legal documents.
If you overlook any property or assets, you’ll force part of your estate into probate which would defeat the purpose of a living trust.
Determine Which Assets Will Be In The Trust
Generally, anyone looking to set up a Florida living trust will include property and assets that would otherwise be part of the estate and require probate.
Some assets may pass directly to a beneficiary with rights of survivorship, but in most cases, they will need to be placed into the trust to avoid probate.
If you have any doubts or need expert advice, talk to your Florida living trust attorney.
Choose a Successor Trustee
Any Florida living trust requires a successor trustee. That’s a person who will take ownership and responsibility of the trust, after your death.
You will need to talk and discuss this role with your person of choice and educate them on their responsibilities.
This person must be someone you can trust to responsibly distribute assets per trust terms, while preserving and generating income.
In short, an ideal trustee is someone who is responsible, trustworthy and well-skilled for the role.
Beneficiaries are individuals who will benefit from the trust. These are the people who will receive a share of the assets and income of the trust.
Unlike a will, you have the freedom to determine the purpose and frequency of distribution. For example, your children could receive funds on their 21st birthday or on their wedding day.
Another option is to make charitable contributions through the trust. If that sounds appealing to you, you should talk to a Florida real estate attorney.
Any beneficiaries that have special circumstances may impact the trust or call for the creation of a separate trust.
For example, if a beneficiary is receiving public benefits then steps should be taken to ensure access to Medicaid isn’t restricted, while still allowing them to benefit from your wealth.
As always, your Florida living trust attorney can review the circumstances and explore the available options that suit you and your family best.
Determine Distribution Instructions
Every Florida living trust must contain instructions and conditions for the distribution of assets and funds.
Although assets can be distributed directly out of the trust like they are with a will, they can also be distributed over time or under specific conditions – such as birthdays or college graduations.
You can also set guidelines over the earnings of assets and the share of trust income.
You have the freedom here to decide how much power the Trustee has, which may have a big impact on the beneficiaries.
Limitations may be beneficial if a beneficiary has debt issues or an addiction that could see lump-sum distribution have a negative impact.
Create the Trust Document
Once you’ve taken the steps above, it’s time to create the legal document that will establish your Florida living trust.
At this point, it is extremely important to have a Florida estate planning attorney’s assistance. You need to make sure the wording is clear to understand and in line with Florida living trust laws.
One mistake could put your family’s wealth at risk of creditors, estate taxes or mismanagement. Don’t make that mistake.
There are many online programs available but always come with an inherent risk of not being reviewed by a legal expert.
Sign the Trust Document
Signing the document must be made in front of a notary public. This act will effectively activate the Florida living trust, protecting your wealth even after your death.
Maintaining Your Living Trust
Once you’ve set up a Florida living trust, you must maintain it. That means titling newly acquired property to the trust and updating conditions as your family tree and circumstances change.
Failure to do so may result in, for example, a new pool of assets requiring probate, a Trustee no longer being available or a new grandchild being left out of the Trust.
Do I Need a Florida Living Trust?
Florida living trusts are not exclusively for the rich. Anyone can benefit from one.
However, the size of your estate and the circumstances of your family will be the key considerations.
If your estate is less than $75,000 then you may be able to enjoy Florida’s simplified probate process through a will. However, even then you should still talk to a Florida living trust attorney to see which solution is right for you and your family.
Estate planning is rife with complicated catches and loopholes that could put your family’s wealth at risk if not properly assessed.
Living Trusts vs Wills
|Allows Revisions||Yes, if revocable||Yes|
|Requires a Notary||Yes||No|
|Names Guardians for Children||No||Yes|
|Names an Executor||No||Yes|
|Requires a Trustee||Yes||No|
|Can Distribute Assets Progressively and Under Set Conditions||Yes||No|
Contact a Florida Living Trust Attorney
If you want to set up a Florida living trust, you should contact a Florida living trust attorney as soon as possible. Doing so will allow you to make a water-tight document that protects your family’s wealth.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they can help you start and complete any trust creation process.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started or to get any questions answered.