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Understanding the Difference Between a Living Trust and a Will

When developing your estate plan, there are several options as to how you pass down your assets to beneficiaries. Two common ways to outline who inherits various parts of your estate is through the creation of wills and living trusts.

Planning through a will

A will is typically a straightforward legal document outlining your wishes for the handling of your property and, if applicable, the care of your children after your death. You may also use a will to name an executor to handle the financial affairs of closing your estate and the distribution of property to beneficiaries. You can do this without an attorney, but it is wise and relatively inexpensive to create a will with the help of a legal professional familiar with Florida law.

After you pass on, your will becomes public record through probate, which typically lasts weeks or several months. During this period, creditors have a definitive time to claim debts and the executor must handle the finalization of your estate. A will does not allow for the transfer of property to another party until probate is complete.

Setting up a living trust

A living trust allows for the transfer of certain property to a trustee, who holds the assets for the beneficiaries’ eventual use. Establishing a living trust is typically not complex, but may include more paperwork and upfront expenses than a will. These trusts are strictly for the handling of property and cannot be used to appoint a guardian for your children. It can, however, be used to provide financially for kids in your absence.  

Unlike the contents of a will, the assets included in a living trust do not go through probate court and are kept private. However, creditors may seek repayment from the property in a trust at any time. Because a living trust helps beneficiaries avoid probate, the individuals named in the trust are usually provided the inheritance within a more expedient timeframe.  

For more information on whether a will or living trust is right for you, speak with a skilled Florida estate planning attorney at the Charles Law Offices.

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