Writing a will or trust can be a daunting proposition to those unfamiliar with the process. Persons in need of a will may not appreciate how to ensure their assets are appropriately handled and otherwise needlessly expose their estate to more complicated issues and processes at their death. When this happens, a mistake can lead to issues as to the division of assets and can also lead to more and sometimes avoidable time in probate court.
Our Florida wills & trusts lawyers are here to help. Our estate planning attorneys have extensive experience helping people build estate plans that meet all their needs for their family and assets. Talk to our estate planning attorneys at Luhrsen Goldberg during an initial consultation to learn more about our planning process and how we help people choose and utilize the right estate planning tools.
What Are Wills Vs. Trusts?
When a person is considering their best options for dividing their assets among their loved ones, one of the biggest concerns they may face is whether a will alone is enough or if a trust might also be appropriate. These are two of the most common and often most important documents individuals may encounter as they navigate an estate plan. Because of this, it is vital to understand the exact differences between the two.
While the two offer instructions for asset distribution in a sense, they have distinct functions that may benefit a person depending on the specifics of their estate. Because of this, one may need to understand the specific definitions below to determine which is more right for their case.
Definition of Wills
First, it is important to understand what a valid will covers. This legal document provides specific instructions on how to split a person’s assets among his beneficiaries, or the people he wants to pass down his assets to. A wills lawyer can help write this document. Wills differ from trusts in that they must go through probate court.
Because this is a document of instructions for the division of assets, the court must ensure any and all significant changes are correct and legal before dividing the assets. This process can take months, which means the family has to wait for their inheritance.
Wills are also a relatively short-term document. Wills only become active upon death, and they only last long enough for the distribution of assets. Once this step is done, the will is no longer needed.
As people reach their older years, they may find themselves facing the prospect of nursing homes, hospice, and end-of-life care. For many people suffering from cognitive conditions, this may mean losing control of their ability to make decisions. A living will gives the planner some control over what happens to them and the decision-making process.
A living will gives the person a chance to provide instructions to their surviving loved ones about their end-of-life care. This may include decisions on resuscitation or life-prolonging medical care. This type of will takes the burden of these decisions off the family and allows choice for the person.
Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts
Unlike wills, a trust is a legal agreement where the assets in question are held by one person for the benefit of another. One of the key benefits here is that a trust does not need to be reviewed by the probate court. This option allows families to provide for minors and those with specific needs, such as a special needs trust or a supplemental needs trust, without losing control of these assets while alive.
When someone chooses a trust, they have control over these assets, which can be valuable in cases where the beneficiary is unable to simply accept the assets. Keep in mind that trusts can be revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts, meaning the person creating the trust gives ownership of the assets to a trustee, who manages these assets. These trusts cannot be revoked, so talk with a trusts attorney about the best option for every situation.
Functions of a Last Will
As a person builds their estate plan, choosing the right documents is vital. In many cases, a trust may seem like the more effective option, especially because it can help families avoid probate entirely. So in what situations is a last will needed?
First, a last will allows the writer to assign an executor of their estate. This person is responsible for ensuring all financial obligations are handled according to the deceased’s final wishes. With a strong estate plan, these duties should be clear and easy to follow for the executor, meaning the process can pass faster.
Relatedly, a last will is also there for debt resolution. When a person dies, their finances are often dissolved, being split among relatives or otherwise used to pay creditors or lenders. As part of their duties, the executor should also read the will and determine how best to resolve any outstanding debts in the deceased person’s name.
While there are many other functions of a will, one of the most important to many families is guardianship. Many people with minor children die every day, and if the deceased is unmarried, it can be difficult to ensure a child is placed in a good home. A last will can contain specific instructions on the guardianship of any children involved, ensuring they are safe and cared for in their chosen hands.
Why Should I Place My Assets in a Trust?
While wills have certain functions, there are also major downsides that can impact the viability of this path for a person. In these cases, trusts may be the best option. But what can someone expect in these cases?
When choosing the best path forward for their assets, many people choose trusts because probate court can be a lengthy and expensive process. When a family is grieving and handling the financial decisions that come with a death in the family, it can be difficult to handle this situation without help. Worse, the probate court is expensive, reducing the assets offered.
A trust also allows the immediate passing of the deceased’s assets. Rather than waiting months or longer for answers and assets, the family can expect quick results with trusts. These are distributed immediately upon death, which reduces the time many families spend worrying about final costs like funerals and burials.
How Do I Create a Will or Trust?
The creation of a will or trust is a key part of the estate plan process for many people, as it provides key legal support for their specific desires. If someone wants to pass on a specific family heirloom, provide ongoing support for a loved one, or dictate their final choices on end-of-life care, these documents can provide that. So how does one create a will or trust?
The process begins by determining exactly what the person’s needs are for their estate plan and ends with ongoing maintenance during their lifetimes for this document. Those without the tools to create a will or trust can contact an attorney for aid.
Building an Estate Plan
Before a person chooses a will or trust, it is first important to determine which documents are best for their specific situation. For example, many people think they have little to provide when they die and want to simply split their assets or sell their house. However, they may find that providing financial installments to a loved one through a trust may be a more powerful way to support their loved ones.
Before a person chooses their estate planning documents, we first recommend they think about the specific assets they need to handle and how they want to divide those assets. From there, a lawyer can help them get the assistance they need.
Creating the Right Documents
Once the person decides which options are best for their needs and their estate plan, our attorneys can begin helping them build the documents they need. That includes determining what assets are in question and how they will be used.
For example, a person may have grandchildren, and they would like a portion of their money left to those grandchildren. In creating these documents, our lawyers will discuss the assets involved, what other assets may be included in estate planning, and the necessary details about one’s estate plan.
Many families find relief when creating a will, living will, or setting up a trust. These documents can be powerful tools for families, and they can provide peace of mind for those worried about their loved ones.
Review the Estate Plan Regularly
An estate plan is not the type of document a person can create and simply leave alone. One’s life can change in an instant, and in years or even a decade, the initial assets and plan may have changed significantly. One’s wills or trusts should reflect that.
This is especially important for those with children or grandchildren. If the creator of the estate plan does not add or modify the agreement for beneficiaries (for example, a beneficiary who was a minor may no longer be), it can leave these family members out.
Because of this, we urge all our clients to review and update their estate planning documents regularly. Taking the time to review each document and ensure all information is up to date can help avoid disputes and ensure one’s estate plan is upheld.
Benefits of Planning a Will or Trust
As people look at their assets, their loved ones, and the specific wishes they have for themselves and their assets, they may be unsure what options are best for them. They may have multiple avenues and options, so which is best?
Wills and trusts are meant to provide different types of options and benefits, each with its drawbacks depending on the specific situation. For those building their own plan, our wills and trusts attorneys are ready to discuss each of the major benefits one can expect from a will or trust.
When a person is considering their best options for an estate plan, they may be concerned about who will receive their assets. Without a will or trust, they may lose control over what happens to their estate following their death.
A trusts or wills attorney can offer the help people in these situations need for their assets. Trust lawyers can guide families through the process of trust administration, for example. An attorney can provide the most specific, detailed guidance based on client needs.
Keep Estate Private
When a will is taken to the probate court, it then becomes public knowledge. That means a person who uses a will may lose a certain level of privacy. A trust may be the stronger option when privacy is a major concern. A dedicated trusts lawyer can provide guidance to those considering trusts as part of their estate plan.
Avoid Disputes Over Assets
One of the biggest problems many people face during the estate planning process is disputes over assets. Sadly, many families have suffered major conflicts due to disputes over sums of money, family homes, and more. Wills and trusts attorneys attorneys are here to help people avoid these situations.
When a person has a specific, detailed estate plan, including wills or trusts depending on the assets, it can help avoid these major family disputes. When a person’s wishes are clear, there may be no grounds to create a more complex situation.
Connect with a Wills and Trust Attorney in Florida
Building an estate plan can be tough, and ensuring all a family’s assets are included within a will or trust can be tough. Without Florida trusts and wills lawyers, it can be difficult to navigate these issues and ensure one’s needs are being met. Without this guidance and care, many people may find their wishes not being respected with regard to their assets.
Fortunately, our team at Luhrsen Goldberg is here to help. We utilize our years of experience in estate planning and can provide specific, detailed answers for any plan our clients may be considering. We are ready to help Florida residents keep control of their assets, starting with a consultation. Call our office or fill out our online contact form to learn more.