A well-structured estate plan is crucial to ensure your wishes will be carried out as you want when you are no longer alive. Florida law allows you to convey property upon death in different ways, including trusts and wills.
Read on to find out whether a trust is better than a will in Florida.
Last Will vs. Trust in Florida – Understanding the Concept
The last will is the basic element of any estate plan. In essence, it is a written legal document in which a person (the testator) outlines his or her wishes on:
- Who should inherit his or her assets upon death?
- How these assets should be distributed
- Who should serve as the personal representative during probate?
- Who should serve as a guardian for minor children or dependents with special needs?
While the last will is essential, it does not allow you to ensure a direct distribution of the assets conveyed through it to your heirs. Before asset distribution, the will must be probated in court, which may result in a lengthy and complex process depending on various circumstances.
Conversely, a trust is an optional legal tool that permits you to convey property directly to a list of beneficiaries without probate.
In this arrangement, the person creating the trust (also referred to as “trustor” or “settlor”) transfers the ownership of assets to a trustee (fiduciary) to benefit specific persons named in the trust instrument (beneficiaries).
Once a property is transferred to a trust, the asset is no longer considered part of the trustor’s estate. Only assets owned in someone’s sole name are subject to probate, which means trust assets can be inherited without court intervention.
Is a Trust Better than a Will in Florida? – The Verdict
If you want to avoid probate, a Florida trust is better than a will to convey property to your heirs. The larger or more complex an estate is, the lengthier probate tends to be.
Cases involving family disputes, will contests, unknown heirs, or litigations tend to be even lengthier, as probate cannot be closed until all the existing issues are settled in court.
A trust permits you to transfer the nominal ownership of assets to a reliable person named your trustee, which must act only in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries.
Upon death, the trustee will distribute the assets held in trust directly to your beneficiaries following the provisions in the trust instrument.
Using a trust can also provide you with a higher level of privacy. Wills are subject to probate, which results in their recording in public records. A third party can request a copy of your county’s probate record and see details about your estate that you would not want to reveal.
Trusts are private arrangements that neither go through court procedures for distribution nor need to be recorded.
Another advantage of a trust is the possibility to set conditions and determine how the assets granted through the trust should be used by beneficiaries. This type of provision is a valuable tool in cases involving beneficiaries that are too young to handle their affairs, financially unstable, or addicted to substances or gambling.