A last will and testament is your written instructions detailing how you want your property to be distributed upon your death. In the will, you designate a “personal representative” to settle your affairs and administer your probate estate. The will may be revoked or amended at any time before your death. In order to execute or amend a will, you must be 18 years old and competent and execute the will with the formalities required by Florida law. Executing or signing the will according to Florida law is highly important. One major benefit of preparing a will is that you decide who should get your assets or property instead of Florida’s intestacy law making the decision because you had no will.
A revocable living trust is a document which manages those assets it owns (assets transferred to the trust) while you are living and distributes those assets to your named beneficiaries upon your death. This type of trust may be amended or revoked at any time before your death as long as you are competent to do so. One important factor is to properly “fund” the trust with those assets determined to be appropriate for the trust to own. You as the “grantor” or “settlor” of your trust (the person who creates the trust) establishes a “trustee or trustees” in the trust document to makes decisions concerning the trust assets. The initial trustee is typically you the grantor and other co-trustees or successor trustees can be designated to manage the assets upon your incapacity or death. A major benefit of using the revocable living trust is that the trust assets do not have to pass through the probate process to transfer those assets to your beneficiaries.
Probate is the court administered process of transferring the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries and paying the decedent’s debts. Not all assets require probate, but those titled solely in the name decedent with no designated succession of ownership for the asset will have to pass through the probate process to transfer ownership. The probate attorney will examine the ownership of each asset, the will, and any trusts to determine how to proceed through the probate process and if it’s necessary at all.