Tampa Trust Attorney
Trusts are effective estate planning tools that can accomplish a number of different goals. Trusts allow you to set up lasting gifts and legacies to family members, charities, your church or alma mater, or a park, library or museum that you love. Trusts can be used for asset protection, Medicaid planning, or tax planning. They can provide for a family member with special needs who relies on government assistance, and they can be used to encourage positive behavior by your children or grandchildren. Trusts are private documents, meaning the contents of your estate and the way you distribute it do not become a public record. A trust can be used to have a qualified professional manage your assets for you to maximize their value or during a period of incapacity. And trust funds don’t have to go through probate, meaning your heirs and beneficiaries receive their inheritance faster and with less cost to the estate.
The Tampa trust attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group take the time to listen to your needs and goals and develop a comprehensive estate plan that includes a revocable living trust, special needs trust, or other types of trusts that suit your needs. Call our office to learn more about how trusts can benefit you and your family now and into the future.
How Do Revocable Living Trusts Work?
The person who creates the trust, known in Florida as a grantor but also commonly referred to as a settlor or trustor, creates a written trust document (trusts are complex legal documents that need to be prepared by a qualified attorney). The settlor names a trustee to manage the trust and one or more beneficiaries who will receive the trust funds at the appropriate time. The settlor funds the trust by transferring assets into the trust.
Once the trust has been funded, the assets belong to the trust and are not part of the grantor’s estate. Therefore, the trust funds do not have to go through probate to be distributed to the beneficiaries. Instead, the trustee holds legal title to the property, and the beneficiaries have what is called equitable title. Legal title passes to the beneficiary when some triggering event defined in the trust occurs. This is usually the death of the settlor, but it could also be when a beneficiary reaches a certain age, obtains a college degree, joins the family business, completes a drug rehabilitation program, etc. In this way, the grantor can feel that the inheritance left behind won’t be squandered away.
When creating the trust, you can make yourself the trustee and stay in control over your assets, managing them as you see fit and continuing to receive a benefit from them. You’ll name a successor trustee to take over after your death and continue to manage or settle the trust. A revocable living trust can also be amended or revoked at any time during the life of the settlor.
What Are the Requirements for a Valid Trust in Florida?
Just as the maker of a will must be of a “sound mind,” a trustor must be competent to make a trust. This essentially means that you know the property you own and understand what you are doing by placing it in trust. It must also be evident that you are intending to create a trust through your actions.
There should be a written trust document. If it is alleged that someone created a trust orally, this would have to be proven in court by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a high evidentiary standard that would be difficult to prove in most cases.
Trusts must be created for a valid, legitimate purpose that benefits the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries must be ascertainable, meaning they should either be named individually or as part of a well-defined class (“my children,” “my grandchildren,” etc.).
To be valid, the trust must also name a trustee, and the trustee must have duties to perform under the trust. As mentioned earlier, the settlor can also be the trustee and can name a successor trustee. However, a trust cannot have only one person serving as the sole trustee and sole beneficiary.
Advice and Assistance With Tampa Trusts and Estates
Most people will benefit from including a revocable living trust in their estate plan to avoid or minimize probate if nothing else. Talk to an experienced Tampa trust attorney about whether you should have one or more trusts to meet specific needs and as part of your overall estate planning goals. In Tampa, call Strategic Counsel Law Group at 813-286-1700 to speak with a team of experienced and dedicated Tampa trusts and estates lawyers.