Everybody has an estate plan.
The State of Florida knows that everybody dies, and everybody has stuff. They don’t want your stuff lying around after you die, so they have already decided who gets your stuff. The state has established an estate plan for those who have not developed their own. The plan is detailed in the state’s intestacy statute. To insure the stuff gets distributed, the state also supervises the distribution through a process known as probate. Probate can take a long time, can be expensive and is public.
In some cases, the state’s plan is pretty straightforward. If the decedent is survived by a spouse and no descendants, the spouse takes it all. If there are children from previous marriages, it gets trickier.
If you don’t like the plan the state has developed for you, you can develop your own. You do this by writing a will. In this case you, rather than the state, decide who gets your stuff. Even if you have a will, however, the state will still supervise the distribution through the probate process.
You can develop your own plan and avoid probate by establishing a Revocable Living Trust. In this case, you appoint a trustee to supervise the distribution of your stuff rather than having the probate court do it. The process is private, quick, and much less expensive than probate.
There are several additional benefits of a trust. Besides avoiding probate, property in the trust is protected from creditors of the beneficiaries. It is also protected from a beneficiary’s divorce settlement. Finally, as the name implies, it is revocable. It can be changed or amended and property can be put into it and taken out of it at any time.
You can make it easy on those left behind, avoid the costs of probate, and keep the government out of your life (or, in this case, death) by developing your own, customized estate plan.