According to the dictionary, the definition of the word trust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” When it comes to legal matters, it takes on a whole other meaning. However, you’ll still want significant “trust” built into a revocable living trust. That’s why you should secure the assistance of an experienced attorney and why you’ll want to carefully choose trustees who always have your best interest at heart.
Keep reading to learn more about this important legal process and how it can benefit you and your estate.
What is a trust?
During their lifetime, Florida residents have the option to create what is called a revocable living trust. This is an important part of the estate planning process that transfers assets from an individual’s ownership to that of a separate entity. This legal document is created by a ‘grantor’ or ‘settlor’ (i.e., you) and creates a separate entity to manage assets while the grantor is still living. It also lays out specific instructions for how and to whom the assets should be distributed after the grantor’s passing, based on their wishes. A married couple may choose to establish a joint living trust or separate ones.
As part of the planning, the grantor assigns a ‘trustee,’ the person who will be responsible for managing the assets held in trust on the grantor’s behalf. And before you even ask, the answer is YES: you can be the trustee on your own trust for as long as you have the capacity to do so. If you serve as your own trustee, the named successor would then settle the estate’s debts and taxes after your death. Afterward, they would distribute the assets according to the terms as dictated by the trust agreement.
As long as the grantor is living, the trust is ‘revocable,’ which simply means that it can be changed, updated, or even terminated at any time for any reason. Funds and assets can typically be withdrawn at will without any restrictions. At the time of death, the trust converts to an ‘irrevocable’ agreement, and its specifications can longer be altered, not even by a beneficiary. This assures that the wishes of the grantor are legally binding and must be carried out as they were written.
What are trusts used for, and why are they important?
A trust is a valuable document that can serve multiple purposes that are quite beneficial to both the grantor and their beneficiaries.
If you were to become incapacitated for any reason, the trustee would be able to control and direct any assets that were transferred into the trust. This would allow them to pay any bills, make decisions about investment opportunities, and sell property if need be. On the other hand, if a living trust had not been established, the courts might need to appoint a guardian of your property, which can be time-consuming. It may also lead to important tasks being overlooked, and it might even result in the person assigned to overseeing your estate being someone that you don’t trust.
One of the other key features of transferring your assets into a revocable trust now is so that they don’t have to go through a lengthy probate process after your passing. Probate is the court-supervised administration of an estate, and here in Florida, it can take several months, with many cumbersome steps along the way. By creating a trust now, your heirs will be spared from these time-consuming and complicated proceedings.
With a properly executed trust, the trustee, or successor, will have immediate authority to distribute assets to the beneficiaries outlined in the trust (once any debts and tax liabilities have been settled.) Your loved ones, along with any charities of your choosing, will receive their inheritance much sooner and with far fewer hoops to jump through. For those who are struggling financially, this may be a critical lifeline. It can also make a difficult time of grief a little easier.
Why should you hire an attorney to draft it?
Before transferring your assets into a living trust, it’s imperative to consult with an attorney that you trust, one who is experienced in estate planning. There are a wide array of options when it comes to the design and specifications of the trust itself and an incredible amount of intricacies that should be considered: Married couples must decide if they want a joint trust or separate ones. What property will you include in the trust? Who will you name as the successor trustee? Who will the beneficiaries be that inherit the property?
Florida also has specific rules about what can and cannot be included. Tax structures may factor into the decisions you make today for the benefit of your loved ones in the future. Florida even has rules about who can prepare the trust: the Florida Supreme Court declared that the preparation of a living trust by anyone other than a licensed attorney constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. And this document is far too important to risk having it invalidated when you or your family need it most.
Let’s Plan Your Estate
We invite you to make a list of all your questions; then schedule a time to sit down with one of our attorneys. We’ll simplify the process and help you gather up all the information you need to get started. With the number of options and strategies available, the trust should be as unique as you are; Easler Law will tailor your documents to suit your individual needs. Once your trust is established, we’ll even help you transfer your assets into it.
When it comes to revocable living trusts, many Floridians have more questions than can be easily answered through a Google search. You’ve spent a lifetime building your estate and planning for the future. Trust the experts at Easler Law to help you navigate the ins and outs of drafting a legally sound document to secure both your future and your estate for your beneficiaries.