Do You Need A Trust?

How trusts are different from wills, who needs one and why.

Estate planning is one of those tons-of-paperwork topics that’s no fun to talk about but is essential to do correctly. Do you know if you need a will or a trust, which one is best, or how to draft one? While a will is only useful after you die, “a revocable trust can help you manage your assets during your lifetime and distribute the remaining assets after your death,” according to The Florida Bar.

One of the biggest misconceptions about revocable living trusts is that once established, you lose control over the assets placed in the trust. Actually, a revocable living trust is a legal agreement which defines how assets in your trust will be held, invested and distributed both during your lifetime and after your death.

“It allows for changes until the owner becomes incapacitated or passes away, at which time it becomes irrevocable,” explains Amy Pittman, Attorney with Pittman Law Office, located in Oxford. “A Last Will and Testament doesn’t avoid probate. It explains to the probate court who you want to receive assets that are in your name alone and the individual you want to be in charge of your estate, the Personal Representative. A Revocable Trust also describes who you want to receive assets and identifies the person you want to be in charge, called a Trustee. However in order to avoid probate you must title assets in the name of the Trust or name the Trust as the beneficiary of assets prior to your death. With a Trust, you maintain control over your assets while you are alive and you can amend the trust, like changing the Trustee or the beneficiaries of the Trust.  Basically it’s a will substitute.”

Whether to choose a will or a trust depends on your needs, your assets and your family situation. If you have more than one piece of property, every state in which you own real estate requires a probate in that state. In the event that you want to provide for a minor child or minor grandchildren, a trust allows you to maintain control over those assets and how often they receive money. For the most part, people look into trusts to avoid probate and to make sure the assets are there for the beneficiary in a timely manner.

It’s recommended that you revisit your estate plan every three years.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” attorneys Richard M. White and Richard C. Mills of White, Crouch & Mills, P.A., Estate Planning Law Firm in Gainesville explain. “Trusts are so flexible and have so many uses that it is a rare estate plan that cannot benefit from the use of a trust.”

Many estate planning attorneys offer a complimentary consultation, and most offer packages rather than billing at an hourly rate. Contact The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service online or by calling  (800) 342-8011 to receive information on qualified lawyers in your area. 

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