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Trust and Trust Planning Attorneys Serving Florida’s Treasure Coast

Trusts can be very powerful tools for managing your personal and financial affairs, when used wisely.

A trust is a separate legal entity into which you place assets. Under this arrangement, a person or entity legally holds property for the benefit of another. The person or entity holding the property is known as the trustee. The person for whom the property is held is the beneficiary. Trusts can come in many varieties, but they must all be written and they must all include at least one beneficiary.

Our qualified attorneys can tailor trust arrangements to your personal circumstances in order to:

  • Protect assets from creditors
  • Reduce estate tax and income taxes
  • Provide for management of your assets if you are incapacitated
  • Time distributions to heirs after your death — such as when they reach a specified age
  • Protect funds from irresponsible spending by family members
  • Keep assets in the family — such as preventing them from being lost to a child’s spouse in a divorce
  • Allocate assets to heirs, especially if more than one marriage creates more than one family to support
  • Make charitable gifts on favorable tax terms
  • Dedicate funds to a particular use (such as a child’s education)
  • Avoid probate

A trust can be created to take effect immediately, upon your incapacity, or only upon your death. It may be revocable, or it may be permanent and irrevocable.

Wills Vs. Trusts

Though similar in many ways, wills and trusts have key differences that make them distinct from one another. The biggest difference is that trusts can take effect while you are still alive, while wills will only work after you have passed away. Trusts are binding legal documents where one party, called a settler or grantor, gives a separate party, known as the trustee, significant powers, including the abilities to manage, supervise, and distribute any affected property and possessions to the beneficiary. Additionally, the trustee (or, in some cases, trustees) ensures that the trust operates the way that the settler initially intended and requested.

A trust gives others the power to handle your assets when you do not have the ability to do so yourself. Unlike a will, a trust generally allows the grantor to have a greater degree of control over the trust’s funds, as well as these funds’ distribution among the beneficiaries. In other words, the person creating the trust can choose to distribute the funds as he or she sees fit, oftentimes according to specific purposes, such as education, or on a specific timeframe, such as yearly disbursement arrangements.

Our experienced attorneys explain each type of trust and outline their benefits and potential drawbacks. Gregory Keane is a Florida Bar Board-Certified Tax Lawyer and a Board-Certified Wills, Trusts, and Estates Lawyer. Board Certification is the highest level of recognition given by the Florida Bar for competency and experience in the areas approved by the Florida Supreme Court. This designation signifies that an attorney meets standards for knowledge in certain areas of the law, professionalism, and ethics in practice. With your overall estate plan in mind, we can help you select the appropriate trust. Possibilities include:

  • Revocable trusts
  • Irrevocable trusts
  • Living trusts
  • Testamentary trusts
  • Special needs trusts
  • Charitable trusts
  • Family trusts
  • Medicaid asset protection trusts

What Are The Types Of Trusts?

The sheer number of trust categories can be confusing, especially to those who have never set one up before. As such, we have compiled short definitions of these main categories in order to help you understand the general intent behind each one.

Living Trust: As the name implies, a living trust operates even while you are still alive. These trusts may be either revocable or irrevocable (both of which are explained below), and the greatest benefit is that you have the ability to manage a living trust yourself. Assuming that your living trust is revocable, you have the right to make yourself both the trustee and the beneficiary, as well as to change the rules of the trust as you see fit. Should you become incapacitated or pass away, the rules of the trust as they stood at the time of your death will go into effect, designating a successor trustee and distributing the trust money accordingly. One of the greatest benefits of a living trust is that you can place all of your assets within the trust and then avoid the probate process after you have passed. This will greatly simplify matters for your living beneficiaries, keeping your finances out of the public probate court and saving money on legal fees.

Testamentary Trust: In contrast to a living trust, a testamentary trust only takes legal effect once the grantor has passed away. This trust is established as part of your overall will, and it will include strict guidelines for how your assets are to be handled, especially in regards to how money is distributed to your beneficiaries. For example, a testamentary trust may specify that the money may only be used for certain purposes such as education, or it may simply release the money in small doses, typically on a monthly or yearly basis. In either case, the purpose of a testamentary will is to give you some control over how your beneficiaries will use the assets after your death; if you believe they will use the money irresponsibly, you have the ability to set parameters on their inheritance.

Revocable Trust: A revocable trust is one in which the creator o fthe trust has the ability and right to end the trust at any time and for any reason. In many cases, this refers to a living trust that you will be able to alter yourself while you are still alive. Whether you prefer to allocate the money elsewhere or you no longer believe that the named beneficiaries deserve the funds, you have complete control over the money. If you so choose, you even have the right to cancel the trust completely.

Irrevocable Trust: Unlike a revocable trust, and irrevocable trust cannot change once it has been established and signed. No matter the reason, neither the trustee nor any beneficiaries will be able to change the trust until all of the outlined terms have been met. These trusts require a great deal of planning and counsel to be used effectively. Always consult with a knowledgeable trust attorney before attempting to establish an irrevocable trust, such as a Florida Bar Board Certified specialist in Wills, Trusts and Estates.

Special Needs Trust, Family Trust, Charitable Trust, etc.: These varieties of trust are all prominent subsets that allocate the trust’s funds to very specific areas. For example, a charitable trust often donates a predetermined sum of money to a charity upon the grantor’s death, preventing other beneficiaries, even family, from gaining it instead.

Benefits Of Trusts Over Wills

Trusts carry numerous legal benefits over wills, some of which are less obvious than others:

  1. Unlike some legal documents, a trust document gives you precious privacy. Trust documents are never public unless you want them to be, meaning that your estate can be settled entirely in private. By contrast, wills are public record, meaning that other people have the ability to look into your business.
  2. A trust document gives you the option to name alternative beneficiaries should the primary beneficiary becomes incapacitated or die.
  3. Property that is secured through a trust never has to go through the probate court. Within a few weeks of the trust going into effect, your attorney will be able to distribute any assets in accordance with the prewritten instructions. On the other hand, a will forces your estate to go through tedious court proceedings taking months or years, all simply to hand out your assets the way you wanted in the first place.

While wills have plenty of advantages of their own, it is important to understand the difference between a trust and a will so that you can make an informed decision about what works best for you. If you have questions or need advice, always contact a licensed attorney for help who is a Florida Bar Board Certified specialist in Wills, Trusts and Estates.

Florida Trust Law

If you have moved to Florida from another state after establishing one or more trusts under the other state’s laws, it is important that you review them with a Florida trust attorney right away. Trust law is complex and state-specific, so your current trusts may not work as intended under Florida law. Even if you understand the terms of your trust as it was originally created in another state, Florida law may interpret these terms differently. It is always better to review your trusts after a move rather than finding out the hard way that something has changed.

Faulty Trust Danger

Many faulty trusts are sold by non-trust attorneys who make exaggerated or false promises about their ability to cut taxes, defeat creditors, and provide other benefits. In fact, the IRS highlights trust abuse in its Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Such a faulty trust is not only expensive but can create costly legal problems by opening you to a tax investigation.

Our lawyers review your existing trust arrangements, fix any problems with them, and tailor your trusts to best meet your specific needs. Always consult a trust attorney before adopting a trust, and preferably a Florida Bar Board Certified expert in Wills, Trusts and Estates.

Quality, integrity, and personalized legal service

For legal help regarding wills, estates, trusts, elder law or guardianship, call The Law Offices of Keane, Thomas & Pinnacoli at 772-288-0000 or contact us online.

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