Creating a successful, and comprehensive, estate plan requires you to do more than simply focus on to whom you wish to gift your estate assets. You will also need to consider how and when those assets are distributed. For many people, avoiding probate is also an important estate planning goal. If you hope to steer clear of probate, the living trust attorneys explain how a trust can help your estate accomplish that goal.
Why Should My Estate Steer Clear of Probate?
When you die, you will leave behind an estate that is made up of all the assets you owned at the time of your death. Probate is the legal process by which those assets are identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. Creditors of the estate are also notified and provided an opportunity to file claims during the probate process. Assets that are gifted in your Last Will and Testament become part of the probate process because your Will must go through probate.
Steering clear of probate is a common goal for two primary reasons. First, the probate process can be a lengthy and time-consuming process for everyone involved. Even a relatively modest estate will typically take longer than three months to probate in the State of Florida because creditors in Florida have three months from the date notice of probate is published to file a claim against the estate. For this reason, the probate of an estate must remain open at least that long before it can be wrapped up. For larger estates, estates where litigation is involved, or even estates where the Executor doesn’t move things along it can easily take a year or more for the estate to make its way through the probate process. The intended beneficiaries of the estate must wait until the end of the probate process to receive their gifts from the estate.
The other reason to avoid probate is the cost. Everyone involved in the probate of an estate is entitled to a fee, including the Executor/Personal Representative, accountants, attorneys, appraisers and real estate agents. Ultimately, those expenses diminish the value of the estate that is passed down to the beneficiaries.
How Can a Living Trust Help Avoid Probate?
A living trust can help your estate steer clear of probate because assets held in a trust bypass the probate process altogether. As such, trust assets can be distributed immediately after your death to the named beneficiaries according to the terms you created as the Settlor. Not only can you rest assured that loved ones will have quick access to much needed assets, but using a trust as your primary estate planning document offers additional benefits as well, including:
- Privacy – because a Will is submitted to the court for probate the terms of your Will become public record, unlike a trust which remains private.
- Control – unlike a Will, you retain a certain amount of control over how assets gifted in a trust can be used by the beneficiaries.
- Flexibility – a trust can also accomplish a wide range of additional estate planning objectives, due in large part to the fact that there are numerous different types of trusts.
- Incapacity planning – your Will only activates upon your death, whereas the terms of a trust can kick in if you become incapacitated as well.
- Protection for a minor child’s inheritance – a minor cannot inherit directly from your estate. If you have children, or plan to have them in the future, a trust can protect and grow your child’s inheritance until the child is old enough to inherit the trust assets directly at which point they can continue to remain in the trust or be distributed according to the terms you created.
Contact Vero Beach Living Trust Attorneys
Please take a moment to download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about how your estate can avoid probate, contact the experienced Vero Beach living trust attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.