Florida residents who are considering preparing an estate plan might want to use a living trust. If most of a person's assets are tied up in life insurance, retirement accounts and bank accounts that are designed to pay to a beneficiary on death, then a living trust may not be needed. However, if there is a reason a person wants to try to avoid probate, then a living trust may be a good idea. These reasons might include plans to disinherit a family member or owning real estate in a different state. In the former case, probate gives family members the opportunity to go to court and fight the disinheritance. The latter case can result in an estate having to go through probate in two states.
A living trust leaves assets in control of the settlors until their death. They are the trustee, and they name a successor trustee to handle the trust when they die. Once the trust is established, it is necessary to transfer property into it or it will be useless.
A trust does not eliminate the necessity of a will. A "pour-over will" adds assets into the trust that are not specifically named although they will have to pass through probate. Estate plans should be reviewed every few years to ensure that they remain current.
The process of estate planning can be a complex one, but even for simpler estates, a person might want the assistance of an attorney. An attorney may help ensure that documentation is prepared correctly and uses the right legal language to avoid a challenge. For larger estates, a variety of trust options may be available to cover many different circumstances ranging from donating to charity to reducing estate tax to caring for a family member with special needs.