How To Set Up a Trust in Florida: A Beginner’s Guide

overview of miami beach

Creating a trust is an effective way to simplify the process of passing assets to beneficiaries. But if you’ve never set up a trust before, you may wonder how complicated the process is.

With the help of trusted estate planning attorneys from Montague Law, setting up a trust is a breeze. We can walk you through how to set up a trust in Florida and provide personalized estate planning assistance. You can reach us at 904-234-5653.

Why Create a Trust?

Trusts can provide several benefits for your estate plan. The main purpose of setting up a trust is to minimize the time, stress, and money involved in transferring assets to your loved ones after your death.

Trusts allow you to designate specific assets and property that will automatically pass to specific people after your death. Without a trust, your beneficiaries would need to go to probate court before they can secure the assets you left them. This process typically involves court costs and lawyer fees and can take over a year in some cases.

With a trust, your trustee will be able to distribute assets to beneficiaries directly without any additional costs or legal processes. Your family can focus on other important tasks after your death, like planning a funeral, while having immediate access to any funds you may have left to assist them.

In Florida, you can choose from several types of trusts that have varying rules and set-up procedures. Living trusts (also known as revocable living trusts) are common for estate planning, as they allow you to change their terms or completely revoke them at any time. But depending on your needs and goals, another type may be more suitable.

How To Create a Trust in Florida

The process of setting up a trust in Florida isn’t complicated, but you’ll want to enlist an experienced attorney to assist you. Your attorney can ensure that the trust documents are legally binding; without their legal knowledge and guidance, you risk creating a trust that doesn’t hold up in court or accomplish your goals.

Your attorney will guide you through these steps for how to set up a trust in Florida:

1. Decide on an Individual or Shared Trust

First, you’ll need to determine whether you want to create an individual trust or share it with a spouse. Shared trusts often make sense for married couples who share a lot of assets. If you and your spouse made separate trusts, you’d need to each sign and record a deed transferring half interest in the house to each of you, for example.

Your attorney can help you determine whether a shared trust makes sense for your situation.

2. Choose the Property To Include

Next, make a list of all the property you want to include in the trust. You’ll probably want to include all of your high-value assets, as probating these assets can be expensive.

Generally, your trust should be as thorough as possible, including every asset you have specific plans for. But you can also create a pour-over will as part of your estate plan, which will transfer any assets you may have left out into the trust after your death.

3. Designate a Successor Trustee

Until you die or become incapacitated, you can act as the trustee, managing the assets in the trust. But you’ll need to assign a successor trustee to take over when you cannot manage the trust yourself.

Many people name a family member or friend as a successor trustee. Think about which person in your life would be a good fit for this role. They need to be responsible, detail-oriented, and honest. They will also need to keep a level head while grieving your death, which is why a close family member may not be the right fit in some cases.

4. Choose the Beneficiaries

Now it’s time to think about which beneficiaries you want to name in the trust. Assigning each of your high-value assets to a beneficiary will save your family members time and stress as they sort through your belongings after your death.

5. Draft the Trust Document

Your attorney will help you transfer all of the information on your trust type, assets, and beneficiaries into a legally binding trust document. Trusts require specific language and contents to hold up in court.

6. Sign the Document in the Presence of a Notary

Once you have reviewed and approved the trust document, you will need to sign it with two witnesses in the presence of a notary.

7. Change Property Titles Accordingly

Your final step after creating the trust is to change the titles of any property to reflect that they are now part of a trust.

Choosing What Type of Trust To Make

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You may consider creating several types of trusts as part of your estate plan. A few common trusts include:

  • Revocable living trusts, which you can change or revoke at any time after creating. This type of trust gives you the most control over your assets.
  • Irrevocable trusts, which you cannot change or amend after creating. Unless you name yourself as the trustee, you will no longer own the assets you transfer into this trust. This can be useful for Medicaid planning and qualifying for estate tax exemptions.
  • Special needs trusts, which give a special needs beneficiary funding after your death without impacting their eligibility for government benefits
  • Charitable trusts, which transfer assets to a charity or charities of your choice.
  • Testamentary trusts, which you set up as part of your will and do not activate until you die. You can change the trust terms during your life.
  • Pet trusts, which provide funds and instructions for your pets after you can no longer care for them.

An estate planning attorney can evaluate your specific goals and advise you about the type of trust that will help you achieve those goals.

What Type of Assets Can You Put Into a Florida Trust?

You can include virtually any assets in your Florida trust. Many trusts include assets like:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Stocks, bonds, and other security accounts
  • Precious metals
  • High-value art or antiques
  • Patents and copyrights
  • High-value collections (stamps, coins, etc.)
  • Jewelry

You cannot place Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) in a trust, but you can name the trust as a beneficiary of an IRA.

The Basic Requirements

When you create a living trust in Florida, you’ll need to assign a few specific roles and meet certain requirements to make the trust valid. The basic components of a trust include the following:

  • Grantor: The grantor is the person who creates the trust — i.e., you. This role is sometimes referred to as the “settlor” or “trustor.”
  • Trustee: The trustee is the person who manages the trust assets and carries out the trust directions according to the grantor’s wishes. You can serve as the trustee until you become incapacitated or pass away, at which point the successor trustee will take over.
  • Beneficiary: A beneficiary takes ownership of assets in the trust at the specified time.
  • Trust documents: A trust is not valid until you have signed the trust documents in the presence of a notary. Every instruction you want to include in the trust must be in the trust documents.

How Choosing the Right Attorney Can Help

handshake between attorney and client

Working with an attorney ensures that you include all of the right information in your trust and draft it correctly to hold up in court. But you shouldn’t just choose any attorney. Look for an attorney with specific experience in estate planning and creating trusts in Florida.

Each state has different requirements for creating trusts, so you’ll need one who practices in Florida. Your attorney should also have in-depth knowledge of estate planning processes, documents, and tools to provide personalized guidance as you draft your trust.

Look for an estate planning attorney whom you trust to be honest and straightforward with you as you plan for what will happen after your death. Good estate planning attorneys deeply understand their clients’ needs and goals and keep them at the front of their minds when providing any guidance.

The future of your estate is in the hands of your estate planning attorney. Working with a trustworthy attorney from Montague Law gives you peace of mind that your estate plan will accurately reflect your wishes.

How Can Montague Law Help You?

At Montague Law, we have extensive experience helping Florida residents draft trusts and create estate plans that accurately address all of their needs and goals. While many of our clients are business owners, we also provide dedicated estate planning services for individuals. Whether you’re thinking about passing your business to beneficiaries or simply preparing for the future of your estate, we can explain what you need to know and draft the necessary legal documents.

Want to learn more about how to set up a trust in Florida? Call 904-234-5653 to speak with a Florida estate planning attorney.

Who Do We Serve?

At Montague Law, we’re committed to serving businesses and individuals in the following areas of northeast Florida:
  • Amelia Island
  • Nassau County
  • St. Simons Island
  • Jax Beach

Contact Info

Address: 5422 First Coast Highway
Suite #125
Amelia Island, FL 32034

Phone: 904-234-5653