Both wills and trusts may become important parts of your long-term estate plan.
They are not mutually exclusive, and they each serve separate purposes.
1. Wills follow the probate process and are wide-ranging
Probate courts in Florida exist to supervise a will’s administration. Everything becomes part of the public record, which ensures accountability, transparency and clarity about your final wishes. With a will, you specify guardianship of your minor children, outline your funeral plans and appoint a personal representative to take care of your affairs. It costs time and resources, but it eliminates any secrecy or guessing about what you want.
2. Trusts avoid probate proceedings and relate to property
Use a trust to distribute your property to beneficiaries that you identify, and specify a trustee who will take care of your affairs. In the event that you become incapacitated (even before your death), the trustee will take over.
An advantage of using a trust is that it does not become a part of the public record. Sometimes wealthier individuals prefer the privacy of this option. A disadvantage is that since the documents remain sealed only for the trustee, beneficiaries do not have easy access to read what the deceased intended.
According to the Florida Bar Association, the trustee must
- communicate with the trust’s beneficiaries in a reasonable time frame
- provide copies of the trust instrument
- give an annual accounting of assets and liabilities
Many people set up both a will and a trust, to make sure that they leave nothing to chance. Explore the intricate facets of the process and decide what makes sense for you.