A Florida Revocable Trust is a useful estate planning tool. They can be used for many functions including disposition of one’s assets upon death. In my practice I use Florida Revocable Trust for the purchase of Class 3 items which are controlled by the NFA, to provide for pets and animals after death, and to hold assets. Each type of Florida Revocable Trust has unique language and purpose.

In addition there are several benefits in using a Florida Revocable Trust to dispose of property over a will. These include the following:

1: No Florida Probate is required for assets that are in a living trust at the time of death. Although this is the most common reason people use a Florida Revocable Trust it is not the only reason. Many times there are other ways of accomplishing the same results with payable on death designations or having assets held in the name of more than one person. Other property such as retirement accounts, life insurance and those with beneficiaries will pass to your beneficiaries on their own without a Florida Probate.

When property is transferred by your Florida Will to a living trust, a Florida Probate is still required.

Florida now requires the trustee of a living trust to file a notice of the trust with the appropriate court containing information about the person who created the trust and the trustee. In some cases the trust is filed in the probate proceeding because they are responsible for paying clams of the creditors and the creditors must be given notice of this.

2: Instruction. Some trusts are used to provide the beneficiaries with instructions or notice that they would otherwise not have available to them. One example is the Florida Gun Trust. One of the benefits of a Florida Gun Trust is that the beneficiaries and successor trustee’s are given information on what laws they must comply with and how to avoid criminal and civil liabilities associated with improper actions.

3: Privacy. As mentioned above, when a person dies with a Florida Will, an inventory must be filed with the court. You may not want your friends, neighbors, or the media to be able to read a listing of what you own and what it is worth. After all, an inventory is a public record. With a living trust, your properties and their values remain private.

4: Constitutional Rights. Some trusts like the Gun Trust or NFA trust allow individuals to maintain their right put purchase items that would otherwise not be permitted under some state laws.

5:Future Incapacity. When one becomes incapacitated, their finances can be dealt with by their successor trustee. This can avoid the unnecessary costs associated with the invalid rejections associated with a Power of Attorney. In can also avoid the necessity to establish a Florida Guardianship.

6: Harder to Challenge. When you make an unequal distribution among your heirs they might not be happy and want to dispute your wishes. A Florida Revocable Trust can shorten the time to dispute distributions and the time in which someone has to complain about the outcome. When proper notice is given, individuals only have 6 months to bring an action.

7: Easy Modification. When retirement accounts or many assets are pointed to a Florida Revocable Trust the trust can be changed without some of the restrictions that are typically placed on accounts. Often if is difficult to remove someone from retirement or benefits accounts, but there is no approval process associated with the modification of a Florida Revocable Trust.

8: Ancillary or Out-of-state Probate. Property owned in another state is normally subject to a second probate or ancillary probate. If the a trust owns the property an additional or out of state probate can be avoided.

Everything is not positive with a Florida Revocable Trust and there are some downsides you should consider.

1: Cost. A living trust can cost more than using other methods.

2: Time-consuming to Fund properly. Depending on how many different types assets you have, proper setup of a living trust can take time and cost money to move the assets to your Florida Revocable Trust

2: More Complicated. Unlike with a Florida Will which you only have to change with there is a life event that causes you to reevaluate your wishes, a Florida Revocable Trust assets need to be maintained within the trust. Much of this can be transparent, but it takes a conscious effort to realize when you receive assets that are not in the trust, and transfer them to the trust. In addition, some families require more than one trust and this can increase the level of complexity.

3: Medicaid ineligibility. Transfers to a Florida Revocable Trust can create a period where one is ineligible for Medicaid benefits. Although this can be resolved by revoking the trust, there may be some additional time and expenses associated with this process. This is more of an issue with older individuals but you never know when it might affect you.

4: Time-consuming to Revoke. Although living trusts can be easily amended, the same effort that was involved in creating them is associated with revocation.

5: Probate or additional costs after death. If you have a taxable estate there will be tax returns and other costs associated with death. With a trust there may be an additional set of returns that are due and this could be more than the savings on probate. You should consider this when you are looking to save costs associated with a Florida Probate.

6: Probate?. If you leave assets in your personal estate you will still need to do a probate. Although the cost of the probate may be significantly lower the time delay and work associated with of the administration of a will.

In Florida when an individual left their Florida Will in a bank vault or safety deposit box a court order is necessary to open the box unless there is a joint owner on the account.

The process involves having a judge issue an order to inspect the contents of the box. If there is a will it should be deposited with the court in the probate proceeding.

If you need help getting a Florida will that is stored in a safe deposit box at a bank, you should Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer

Many people feel that one of the best places to keep your estate planning documents and original Florida Will is in a safe deposit box. A bank box can protect the documents from most natural disasters. If you keep the documents in a bank you should have a joint holder on the account to simplify the process of obtaining the documents in the event of your death.

Some people also keep their documents with the lawyer who created them. Many lawyers will not retain original documents because of the risk of loss and expense associated with keeping the documents.

Most people keep their documents at their home. They can be kept in a safe, file cabinet, or even their freezer. If they are kept in a place that is not obvious, you need to let others know where they are located so they will be found when they are needed.

If Florida, you need to be conscious of Hurricanes and potential water damage from the storms that frequent our state.

There are many parts to a Florida Estate Planning.
The Documents include Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, HIPAA releases, Medical Powers of Attorney, Living and Revocable trusts and other documents depending on the particular needs of the clients.

The most important thing to remember is not everyone needs a living trust (see my articles on Trust Mill Scams) and each plan should be customized to the individuals family dynamics.
If you would like your Florida Estate Plan reviewed Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.

It is important to note that in Florida Judges will want to see proof that a child is in the United States legally prior to issuing a guardianship over the minor person. With the recent changes in security and immigration, there is concern about creating a legitimate reason for the minor to stay in the country with the guardianship.

The Ca Estate Planning Blog has an article on how to put your bank account in your Florida Revocable Trust . It is one of the most important things that can be done after setting up your Florida Living or Revocable Trust.

If you have not funded your Florida Revocable Trust please Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to make sure it is funded properly.

The Wills Trust and Estate Professors Blog commented on discounts on Family Limited Partnerships and discounts in relation to an elective share.

In In re Estate of Hjersted, 175 P.3d 810 (Kan. 2008), the court held that in valuing partnership interests owned by a deceased spouse for purposes of calculating the surviving spouse’s elective share entitlement, discounts for lack of marketability and lack of control are “not precluded.”

As the second marriage becomes more popular, it becomes more important than ever to protect your life insurance for your children. I received a call today where the second wife had changed the life insurance benefits to her name, as might be expected. Five months later the father of two children died. The second wife will receive all the benefits of the life insurance and non will go to help support the fathers biological children. When the wife dies, it is likely that the money will go to her biological children and the fathers children will receive nothing. What this the intent of the father? Probably not? Can anything be done to protect your assets for your descendants? yes
How can you allow a portion of the money to be available for the benefit of a second or third wife and give part to your biological children. One way is through changes in the beneficiary designations. Although this can be difficult and some companies require the consent of the spouse, it is not impossible.

The better way, is to set up a revocable trust. The trust can designate who you would like to receive the proceeds and how you want the money distributed. Even better, once you create the trust, you can amend it.

It is best to create the trust before you get married, and amend it when you choose. Paul A. Rabalais of the Estate Planning Law Firm of Louisiana Blog recently wrote a similar article on this topic that you may want to review for more information.

If you need help creating a Florida Revocable Trust Contact a Florida attorney who is familiar with Florida Estate Planning Documents

The Wall Street Journal online has an article on How to Ensure Relatives Don’t Rip You Off. Also the Toronto Estate Law Blog has an article today on POA abuse.

The article mentions several things that can be done to safeguard clients.
1) a provision requiring regular accounting statements from the agents.
2) Naming co-agents who can serve as checks on each other.
3) naming a supervisor who has the power to fire an agent
When setting up a Power of Attorney, you want to name an agent while you’re still in good health and can make clear decisions. Typically, such documents are included as part of a standard Florida estate-planning package, which also includes a Florida Will and health-care proxy giving an agent the power to make health decisions when you can’t.

Powers of Attorney are often a tough balancing act: You want them to be simple for trusted family members or friends to implement, without too many hoops each time a transaction is made. But you also want to avoid giving agents a license to steal.

To further protect yourself, you can require that your agent provide family members, or a third party, such as a lawyer or accountant, with regular accounting statements. Another strategy is to name co-agents. While that can be a burden — many transactions, for instance, would need two signatures — it can also create a system of checks and balances. In some cases, lawyers appoint an additional safeguard: a “protector,” who has the power to replace the agent if there is wrongdoing.

Another key point: Make sure to carefully lay out exactly what powers you want your agent to have. For instance, you can limit the agent’s power to make gifts of your property, so they can’t just give money to themselves. Spell out under what conditions gifts can be made, how much and to whom.

Leanna Hamill of the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog has recently posted two useful and informative articles (Part 1 and Part 2) about Estate Planning and Divorce which was summarized on the Georgia Wills and Probate Law Blog.

In addition Paul Rabalais recently wrote a similar article on the Louisiana Estate Planning Blog Importance of Estate Planning Amplified When There’s A Second Marriage
The articles suggested revoking and or creating new Durable Powers of Attorney and Designation of Health care Surrogates as well as the importance of involving your Florida Estate Planning Lawyer in your divorce before it is finalized. Often wills, trusts, and non-probate assets will need to be retitled at the time of the divorce. In Florida, there is an automatic stay on changing the title or disposing of assets after a divorce has been filed in the courts.

After your divorce, in addition to signing your new estate planning documents, you should also make sure that you have changed the beneficiaries on any life insurance policies, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and any other accounts that may have had your former spouse listed. If you have set up a trust, your estate planning attorney can assist you in making sure that the trust is properly named as the beneficiary of these accounts.

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