When it comes to preserving your legacy and protecting your loved ones, all options must be on the table. Fortunately, Florida permits a wide array of Estate Planning tools and strategies to manage the destiny of your hard-earned assets. Perhaps the most versatile legal instrument at your disposal is the Florida Trust, which is suitable for a wide variety of estates and offers many advantages over other Estate Planning mechanisms.
However, given their complexity and importance, it is imperative that you work with an Estate Planning Attorney from Jurado & Associates, P.A. to explore your options and better ensure that your trust is properly drafted.
The Basics of a Florida Trusts
A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person (the settlor or grantor) entrusts another person (the trustee) to hold and manage property (such as funds, real estate, etc.) for the benefit of other persons (the beneficiaries).
In layman’s terms, an individual forms trust to hold their assets for beneficiaries, which can include anyone from family and friends to charities and social causes. The trustee nominally owns the trust’s assets, but only for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
A trust provides instructions on how the settlor’s estate is to be handled upon their death, including detailed provisions on how the assets must be distributed among beneficiaries.
The Advantages of a Florida Trust
One of the key benefits of a trust is its flexibility: The settlor has broad discretion to arrange their affairs however they see fit, with only a few minor limitations.
For example, a settlor cannot be the sole trustee and also the sole beneficiary, though they can be a trustee or beneficiary of their own trust if there is at least one other trustee.
Otherwise, you have broad discretion to set up virtually any plan with your assets. You can allow the trustee to decide how best to carry out your wishes, or provide very detailed instructions and guidance. Either way, the trustee is bound by law to act in the best interests of your designated beneficiaries.
Another appealing aspect of a Florida Trust is its security: Once all your assets are placed into the trust, they are fully secured from creditors. This is particularly useful if you are concerned about the financial circumstances or responsibility of a beneficiaries.
Moreover, unlike other Estate Planning instruments such a Will, the assets of a trust, as well as its beneficiaries, are kept private. There is never any requirement to record a trust in the public record, ensuring that your arrangement remain only within a trusted circle.
Finally, perhaps the most desirable quality of a Florida Trust is its ability to circumvent probate, the often-arduous court-supervised process of distributing someone’s assets after they die. This is because probate only applies to assets owned by the deceased person, whereas the title to the assets of a trust is held by the trustee.
Bear in mind that these benefits are only effective if the trust is properly drafted and executed, which is why an experienced Estate Planning Attorney should be a vital part of any decision you make regarding your legacy.
Revocable Trusts vs. Irrevocable Trusts
A Florida Trust can take a variety of forms depending on its language, purpose, and legal effects. The two most prevalent types are Revocable and Irrevocable, and it is crucial to fully understand what each entail before executing your trust.
A Revocable Trust allows the settlor to maintain ownership over the trust’s assets for as long as they live or are mentally competent. This includes the ability to collect any income generated by the assets, amend the terms of the trust, or even cancel (i.e., revoke) the trust altogether. Upon the settlor’s deaths, the assets are distributed among beneficiaries in accordance with the trust.
In short, you have full control over a Florida Revocable Trust for your lifetime—only upon death is the trust no longer amendable, let alone revocable.
The obvious advantage of a Revocable Trust is its extra flexibility, as it allows the settlor to account for any number changes that may occur throughout their life.
For example, you may acquire new assets you wish to put in the trust, decide that someone else is better suited to serve as trustee, add or remove beneficiaries, or change how the assets are to be handled. The future is unpredictable, and simply having the peace of mind in knowing you can change your trust accordingly is enough reason for many people to choose a Florida Revocable Trust.
An Irrevocable Trust, as the name suggest, cannot be changed once it has been executed (i.e., signed by the settlor and two witnesses in one another’s presence). Thus, you effectively give up ownership and control of all trust assets as soon as the trust agreement comes into effect.
Nevertheless, there are benefits to a Florida Irrevocable Trust that may outweigh its irrevocable nature. Since the assets are no longer part of your estate, they are not exposed to estate taxes, and the subsequent reduction in the total value of your assets may reduce your overall tax rate as well. Likewise, moving assets into an irrevocable trust avoids capital gains taxes.
The tax benefits are even greater for a Florida Irrevocable Charitable Trust. Assets put into the trust during your lifetime will result in a charitable income tax deduction over those assets. Even if the assets are not transferred to the trust until your death, the estate will enjoy a similar charitable tax reduction.
Finally, depending on your circumstances and preference, the irrevocable nature of a trust may bring greater peace of mind, since it ensures long-term stability.
Put Your Trust in Jurado & Associates, P.A.
Deciding which Florida Trust to choose—or indeed whether a trust is your best option—is not something to be taken lightly. There is more at stake than just your legacy: As legal instruments, trusts must comply with specific state rules to be valid and enforceable. The language must be as clear as possible, or else the terms could be mired by disputes, delays, or even the trust being declared invalid by a court.
Fortunately, your Estate Planning Attorney from Jurado & Associates has ample experience in preparing and drafting trusts of all forms. We understand that everyone has unique circumstances and goals that must be reflected in their estate plan. That is why we work closely with every client to provide an individualized strategy that best suits their interests. If you are wondering whether a trust is right for you, or would like to learn more about our estate planning services, call (305) 921-0976 or email [email protected].