You can establish a revocable living trust in the state of Florida as a way to pass your assets to your heirs without them having to contend with the probate process. Under Florida law you can make amendments to a revocable living trust or discontinue the trust at any time. For tax purposes you and the trust are one and the same, which means you could face complications with preparing your taxes if you decide to appoint someone other than yourself as the trustee.
Contact a trust lawyer licensed to work in Florida and arrange to have a trust document drawn up. Decide who you want to act as the trustee. If you decide to act as your own trustee then you must also provide the lawyer with the name and contact information of a successor trustee who can handle the trust after your death.
Provide the trust attorney with a list of the assets that you wish to include in the trust. If you decide to exclude any assets from the trust then should also ask the lawyer to help you prepare a pour over will. The pour over will includes instructions on how to distribute assets not included in the trust after you die.
Choose trust beneficiaries. Provide the names of the beneficiaries to your lawyer as well as their contact information. You must specify which assets should go to whom although you can of course make changes at any time and add or remove beneficiaries as needed.
Give a copy of your trust to your bank and your investment firm. Arrange to have your existing accounts changed so that the accounts are owner by the trust rather than you as an individual. If you plan to include any real estate in the trust then you must file a quit claim deed to pass ownership of the property to the trust.
Tips & Warnings
- In Florida, assets that are jointly owned do not have to pass through probate and, as of May 2011, if your estate amounts to less than $75,000 your heirs can settle your estate by going through a streamlined probate process known as a "summary of administration." Additionally, under Florida law, a surviving spouse has an entitlement to 30 percent of the deceased spouses estate. Therefore, you may not have a need for a trust at all depending on your marital status and financial situation.
- In some Florida counties you may lose your homestead property tax exemption if you pass ownership of your home to your revocable trust, but in many counties you can achieve this transfer by using certain wording in the deed. However, under Florida bankruptcy laws your creditors cannot force you to sell your home to settle your debts, but Florida law does not state whether creditors can or cannot make claims on a primary residence owned by a trust. In Florida, trust assets are not protected from creditors during your lifetime or after your death, and creditors have two years within which to file claims on your assets after you die.