Estate Planning Law

Do You Need a Living Trust or a Will?

You have devoted your life to your career, to saving for the future, and to providing for your family. Now that you have accumulated some assets and have an estate that you will eventually want to pass on to your children, you should make sure to make the right choices for those assets.

You probably assume that a last will and testament is the obvious way to accomplish that all-important task.  However, there are other options available to you, beyond a simple will. Most important of which is a trust, more specifically a revocable living trust.

Why would you choose something other than a last will and testament to pass on your estate? Read on and see. You might be surprised to learn all of the benefits that come with other estate planning options.  

In this article, we will compare a last will and testament to a revocable trust, then we will cover some features of a revocable trust. At Doane & Doane, PA, Doaneanddoane.com we are passionate about giving our clients the personalized legal counsel they need to appropriately take care of many major life and death decisions, whether it is estate planning or future child support.

So, to answer your estate planning questions, we welcome you to consider visit Doaneanddoane.com or contacting us at Doane & Doane, PA for estate planning advice and services. You can contact us today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that has the same goal as a last will and testament. In essence, it is a financial vehicle that provides estate management during a person’s lifetime and after they pass away.  

Every revocable living trust needs to have a trustee, to manage the trust. With a revocable trust, you can make yourself the trustee, and then designate a successor to handle the property placed in trust upon your incapacity or death.  

The one difference between a will and a revocable living trust is that a will is meant to make choices in connection with a person’s entire estate. By contrast, a revocable trust only has that much of the estate that is affirmatively placed (or funded) into the trust.  

What Benefits Come with a Trust, that are Not Available with a Will?

If correctly drafted and funded with estate assets, a revocable living trust can give you the ability to:

1. Avoid probate of the trust assets;
2. Maintain financial privacy;
3. Make plans for how trust assets are managed if you become incapacitated;
4. Dictate how the trust assets are distributed at death.

Now, let us discuss each of those benefits more closely.

1. Probate Avoidance

One of the main reasons a trust came into existence was to avoid probate. As you likely know, a last will and testament must go through the probate courts. Simple enough, right? Well, probate is an arduous, expensive, and often frustratingly slow process. It takes its toll on beneficiaries who simply want to obtain the inheritance promised in the last will and testament.  

Thus, trusts are available to entirely avoid the difficult probate process. When you create a trust, you provide instructions on how the assets in the trust will be distributed. Thus, very much like the execution of a contract, when you pass away, the trustee you designate will follow the instructions attached to the trust. Thus, beneficiaries can immediately realize their inheritance, rather than have things tied up in court for months or even years.

2. Financial Privacy

Given that most court proceedings are matters of public record, that means that your will and documents in a probate are public record. If you have an estate in which the press might have some interest, then the probate records will result in your financial matters becoming public.  

A revocable trust, on the other hand, is not a public document. Thus, to keep your financial affairs away from the public, you would be wise to create a trust.

3. What Happens Should You Be Incapacitated?

When it comes to what happens should you become incapacitated, you need a power of attorney. Interestingly, a will is not the document to use with regard to such an eventuality. A living trust, however, gives you the ability to provide instructions on what should occur if you are incapacitated. You can have your successor step in to handle affairs of the trust, and you can even specify how mental incapacity should be determined. 

4. Distribution of Assets

Finally, just as with a will, a revocable trust allows you to distribute your assets (those placed in the trust) when you pass away. It is important to note that you cannot name a guardian for your minor children in a trust (though you can with a will). Any property left to a minor from a trust will be held by the trustee until the child reaches an age stated by you when creating the trust.  

Look to Doane & Doane for Help with Estate Planning Options

Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.

Estate planning is about much more than just giving away property. It is an act of love and kindness, with the ultimate goal of providing for the future financial security of your loved one. At Doane & Doane, our Wills and Trusts Attorneys West Palm Beach help people plan for retirement, make provisions for loved ones, figure out future child support, and minimize tax liability. Experienced wills and trusts attorneys know which tools to use to get the best results for their clients. Our lawyers can help you determine which tools are best suited to your specific circumstances.

When it comes to probate matters, such as the formal administration of an estate, Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys at Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates. Notably, the founding partners of Doane & Doane are board certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys. With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Call us at Doane & Doane, P.A., or visit  Doaneanddoane.com to help you if you are faced with a probate matter, or if you would like estate planning services in Florida. You can reach us at 561-656-0200.  Call us today.