Everyone needs an estate plan, regardless of income. No matter your financial situation, the attorneys at Medley Law Firm can find an estate planning strategy that works for you. Ready to protect your family’s future? Call us at (850) 607-7890 to schedule a case evaluation.
We hear it all the time: I don’t need an estate plan because I’m not that wealthy! This statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
Keep in mind that when we talk about “estate,” we’re not talking about a mansion with a sprawling yard, a pool and tennis courts. In our profession, “estate” refers to anything you own, including your car, home, real estate, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, investments, furniture and other possessions. Virtually everyone has an estate.
And do you know what happens to your estate when you die without a will in place? The State of Florida gets to decide what happens to your assets. If you’re like most people, that’s not a pleasant thought; afterall, you probably have at least some idea of how you’d want your belongings distributed among family and loved ones.
The best way to ensure your estate is handled according to your wishes is to make a plan with an experienced attorney. A legal expert will review your financial situation and offer the best possible strategy, which may involve wills and trusts. Not sure how they work? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
When you’re ready to make an estate plan in Florida, you don’t have to waste time Googling “will and trust attorney near me”—you can contact the Medley Law Firm directly to schedule a consultation with a top will and trust attorney.
Trusts are essentially legal arrangements designed to protect assets and use them according to instructions detailed by their owner (also called the grantor or trustor). They can be used both during the lifetime of their owner and after their owner’s death, and are called living trusts or testamentary trusts, respectively.
In addition to an owner, trusts require a trustee and a beneficiary or beneficiaries. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to the owner to manage the trust according to their wishes, which includes distributing assets to the beneficiaries.
Trusts are also described in terms of revocable or irrevocable. A grantor can create a revocable trust in their lifetime and manage it as the trustee, altering, amending or terminating it at any time. While revocable trusts offer flexibility and avoid probate, their assets are included in the grantor’s taxable estate, which isn’t an ideal compromise for some people.
Conversely, when someone creates an irrevocable trust, they give up ownership over it and cannot alter it. It is managed by an appointed trustee who is not the owner. Because the grantor has given up control over the assets within the trust, those assets are not part of the owner’s taxable estate. These trusts can help protect the grantor’s assets from creditors, and like revocable trusts, they are not subject to probate.
Other types of trusts that you may want to include in your estate plan include charitable and special needs trusts, both of which are established during the grantor’s lifetime.
Rather than a tool for protecting assets, a will is a document that provides instructions for distributing assets after your death. It can include instructions for appointing an executor and guardians for minor children; it can also direct an executor to create what’s called a testamentary trust and appoint a trustee to hold assets for beneficiaries until certain milestones.
Additionally, a will can include directions for a person’s burial and funeral. To be considered valid and implemented, it must be signed and witnessed, according to state law. Wills must also go through probate court, which means the document (and its beneficiaries) become public knowledge. After probate, the will is carried out by the designated executor.
Although they serve different functions, wills and trusts aren’t generally an either/or question in estate planning. In fact, many people choose to have both. So how do you decide?
If you have a small estate with assets that are easily transferred, a will can be the least expensive, most efficient choice. Even if you have a trust, however, you may still want to write a will. That’s because in absence of a will, a trust is unable to address problems concerning assets outside of itself. As a result, larger estates generally benefit from having both.
Despite myriad other factors to consider, the decision about whether to use a will or a trust generally comes down to the following factors:
Ultimately, estate planning tools are complex. Each comes with numerous benefits, drawbacks and stipulations. As a result, it’s a good idea to work with a wills and trusts attorney to craft the best approach to your financial situation.
At Medley Law Firm, we understand that estate planning can be overwhelming. As premier will and trust attorneys, we can promise you this: It’s a lot more manageable with expert assistance. We’ve made a career out of knowing everything there is to know about estate planning and how to help clients choose a strategy that works for them.
Searching for an experienced estate planning attorney near Pensacola? You’re in luck—our legal team serves the estate planning needs of clients throughout Florida and Alabama. Contact us online to schedule a consultation or give us a call at (850) 607-7890 today.
Medley Law Firm is an Elder Law, Estate Planning and Probate firm in Pensacola, Florida that offers in-person professional services from Pensacola to Panama City and virtually across the entire state.Contact Us