TRUSTS IN FLORIDA
The Average Person Creating an Estate Plan
Usually Has Little to No Understanding
of What Trusts Are, Much Less What
a Revocable Living Trust Is
ROBERT J. KULAS
FLORIDA ESTATE AND MEDICAID PLANNING ATTORNEY
Almost everyone creating an estate plan today ● ● ●
will benefit by making a revocable living trust.
To get an idea of what a
revocable living trust is, it
Unfortunately, the average person creating a
might be useful to think of
plan usually has little to no understanding of
an imaginary friend, such
what trusts are, much less what a revocable
as one you might have had
living trust is. Beginning the estate planning in your childhood.
process with as much information as possible is Revocable living trusts are,
always a good idea. If you take the time to learn in many ways, like
some basic concepts, you’ll be able to not only imaginary friends.
● ● ●
craft a better plan with your estate planning
lawyer, but you won’t feel lost or overwhelmed by the process. To help you
establish a base of knowledge, here are some key points you should know about
revocable living trusts.
YOUR FICTIONAL FRIEND
To get an idea of what a revocable living trust is, it might be useful to think of an
imaginary friend, such as one you might have had in your childhood. Revocable
living trusts are, in many ways, like imaginary friends. Trusts have no physical
presence. You can’t touch them, can’t talk to them, and they don’t exist outside of
a piece of paper.
Nevertheless, revocable living trusts have legal value. The law recognizes these
tools and allows them the ability to own property. Because of this, revocable
living trusts play a key role in estate planning. When you create a revocable living
trust, you’ll use it as a sort of holding company for your individually owned
property. Though you will still be able to use, maintain, and benefit from the
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property transferred into the trust, doing so will give your estate plan significant
TRUSTS AND PROBATE
The reason revocable living trusts are so
important to estate planning is because they
allow your state to avoid one of the main
problems it faces. That problem is probate.
Probate is a legal process in which the
property you leave behind after you die will be
inventoried, accounted for, and distributed to
your legal heirs. Like many other legal
processes, probate takes a long time. It is also
highly regulated. There are many specific laws
and rules that apply throughout this process in
order to make it uniform and fair.
What that means for the average person is that if you leave behind property that
has to go through this probate process, your family will not be able to become the
new legal owner of that property until probate is finished. This can take months,
and in some cases, even years. Throughout that time, your estate will have to foot
the bill when it comes to fees and costs associated with this process.
PROBATE AND YOUR LIVING TRUST
At this point you might be wondering how a living trust helps your estate avoid
probate. It’s really rather simple. Remember that imaginary friend? Well, because your
imaginary friend has been given legal substance, that friend can continue to exist after
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you die. If you transfer all your property into your friend’s name, that friend will still be
the legal owner after you’re gone. Because your imaginary friend owns the property and
not you, there is no reason for probate court to get involved.
So, by creating your revocable living trust and transferring your property to it, you get
to avoid probate. Further, because you are the one who creates the revocable living
trust, you also get to determine the rules under which the trust will operate. This
includes the ability to determine how the trust will transfer property to your heirs after
you die. Though this is, in effect, the same way you would transfer property to your
heirs if you had written a last will and testament, because you are doing it through a
revocable living trust you don’t have to go through probate to do so.
CREATING THE TRUST
So, now that you know how living trust let your estate avoid probate, you’ll need
to get down to the actual work of creating one. This process isn’t too difficult,
though there are some specific laws
that apply. Your estate planning
attorney will guide you through the
process to ensure that you comply
with these laws, but in essence all you
will be doing is creating a document
that states some particular details.
First, your document will have to
identify who will serve as the trust beneficiary. The beneficiary is the person who
gets to use the property the trust owns. The great thing about a revocable living
trust is that you can name yourself as the beneficiary. You can also identify who
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will become the beneficiaries once you die. These beneficiaries will effectively
inherit the property you leave behind.
Second, you’ll have to identify a trustee. A trustee has the duty to manage the
property the trust owns. Trustees can be almost anyone you choose. However,
because the property the trust will own is the property you already own, most
people creating a revocable living trust choose to serve as the trustee themselves.
So, when you create a living trust you choose yourself as both the beneficiary and
the trustee. At no time during the trust creation process will you lose control over
your property or have to choose someone else who will step in to manage it for
Finally, you’ll have to complete the funding process once you’ve written the trust
instrument. Funding is simply taking your property and transferring it into the
trust’s name. This can be simple or complicated depending on the type of
property you wish to transfer. Further, you have to be very careful when you go
through the funding process. If you make a mistake or leave something out, your
trust won’t be the legal owner. Any property you fail to fund properly will have to
go through the probate process.
In our next discussion on living trusts, we will go into more detail about the
process, how the trusts work, and what you can do to make sure your trust works
properly. In the meantime, if you have any questions about these tools, talk to
your estate planning attorney.
About the Author
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Robert J. Kulas
Robert is the founder and principal shareholder in the Port St. Lucie and
Vero Beach law offices of Robert J. Kulas, P.A. Because he believes that
helping his clients manage their personal affairs wisely is one of the most
worthwhile professional activities he can pursue, he has devoted his
practice exclusively to estate planning.
Robert has invested considerable time and energy helping to educate
others in estate planning and is widely regarded as a dynamic speaker
who can make even the most complex estate planning issues easy to grasp. He provides free
monthly seminars to inform the public on the importance of proper estate planning. For over
twenty years, thousands of people have come to hear him speak. “Helping people understand
their options for estate planning is very important to me,” Robert said. “I like to think that
people in our community can look to me for the kind of quality information they need to decide
what is best for them and their families.”
About Robert J. Kulas, P.A. Attorneys at Law
Robert J. Kulas, P.A. Attorneys at Law is a full service estate planning and wealth preservation
law firm servicing Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach, Florida.
The firm is dedicated to providing you with quality estate planning resources, so you can
become familiar with all of the existing options. When you visit or call the office, we want you
to feel comfortable discussing such an important issue concerning both you and your family.
We want to arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision about your
East Lake Professional Center Univest Building
2100 SE Hillmoor Drive, Suite 105 2770 Indian River Blvd., Suite 321
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952 Vero Beach, FL 32960
Phone: (772) 398-0720 Phone: (772) 778-8481
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