Florida retirees may be wondering whether a will or a trust is a more appropriate estate planning tool. According to experts, either could be appropriate, depending on the retiree's situation. A trust is a legal tool that holds assets for the benefit of an individual. A will is a legal document that directs which assets should go to whom after an individual's death. Both serve unique legal purposes. Deciding which one is most appropriate depends on the unique estate planning goals and needs of an individual's situation.
A trust can provide more control and flexibility than a will. It can also limit court interference after one's death and shield the individual's affairs from public scrutiny. An individual can set up a trust to prescribe how they would like assets dispersed upon their death. This can be especially helpful if the assets are going to a charity or a minor. Assets are then re-titled in the name of the trust. While this type of planning can provide more control, it can also be more costly than a will and more complex.
A will may be suitable for most retirees. A simple will states who certain assets should go to after an individual's death. In the most simple form, the will may pass all assets to a spouse or children. They can also itemize specific assets for specific beneficiaries. Wills are generally less costly and complex than trusts. However, they do subject the estate to probate and open the proceedings up to public exposure.
There is no one approach to estate planning that is perfect for everyone. A trust may be most suitable for some people, while a will is likely to meet the needs of others. An estate planning attorney may be able make a recommendation to a client as to which legal tools and documents are most appropriate.
Source: Forbes, "Wills vs. Trusts: What's Best For Retirees?", Thomas and Robert Fross, February 18, 2014