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Avoiding probate with a Florida living trust

Probate can be a time-consuming and potentially costly situation for many Florida residents. Probate is the method by which a grantor's debts are paid and his or her property and assets are distributed to their heirs. But it can take many months for a decedent's heirs to receive their portion of the assets and these assets may be reduced after court costs. However, there are estate planning strategies that can help avoid the probate process.

One of the most popular of these strategies is a living trust. A trust is an agreement whereby ownership of certain property and assets are transferred to the trust and managed by a trustee. The trustee takes care of the assets for the beneficiary. Sometimes the person who draws up the trust, known as the grantor, can also be the trustee. A living trust is one that takes effect during the grantor's lifetime, rather than after his or her death.

Probate is necessary if the decedent left a will or died without a will. Any property or assets that are part of a living trust do not go through probate, however, because they are owned by the trust, not the decedent, and therefore do not become part of the decedent's estate upon death. Instead of property being distributed through probate, property in a living trust is transferred to the beneficiaries by the trustee according to the instructions in the living trust. This process is almost always faster than probate. And since there are no court costs to pay, a living trust can also save money.

Another benefit of a living trust is that unlike a will, it does not have to be filed with the court and therefore will usually not become a matter of public record. This means that all of the information in the living trust remains private. The drawback to a living trust is that there is a lot of paperwork that must be maintained because the grantor has to formally transfer title every time an asset is added to the trust. Any Florida resident interested in finding additional information on living trusts may want to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Source: www.estate.findlaw.com, "Living Trust Information", Accessed June 23, 2015

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