Establishing a living trust can help ensure that finances and estates will be distributed according to the creator of the trust’s wishes after their passing. Here are the basics of living trusts and how to begin the process.
What is a Living Trust?
A living trust is similar to a will in that it outlines what will happen to possessions, finances, businesses, and anything else a person owns when they pass away. A living trust is a legal entity that a person’s assets are transferred to, allowing individuals to direct the management and distribution of anything the trust covers. Because the trust itself legally owns the assets, the assets can be transferred without going through the probate law process.
Determining the Type of Trust
There are multiple types of living trusts, so one must first determine which type best suits their needs. The two main types are revocable and irrevocable trusts. Revocable trusts are much easier to navigate, as they can allow the creator of the trust, called the “grantor,” to retain complete control of their assets and property for the duration of their life. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, requires permission from everyone named in the trust before it can be modified. In addition, married couples must decide whether to use two single trusts or opt for a joint trust, which may be easier for those with joint properties or bank accounts.
Before contacting a lawyer, the grantor should take inventory of all of the assets that they want to be transferred to the trust. This includes savings accounts, real estate, vehicles, stocks, and family heirlooms. They should bring any paperwork related to these assets to the initial meeting, including home deeds, car titles, and stock ownership certificates.
Select a Trustee
Before a living trust can be completed, the grantor must name a trustee, who will be responsible for managing the assets in the trust. The grantor may choose themselves to be the trustee, which is common in revocable trusts. However, if they choose this option, they must also select a successor trustee to take over management of the trust after their passing. This successor will be responsible for ensuring that all assets in the trust are properly distributed to the beneficiaries according to the instructions laid out in the trust.
Creating the Trust
After deciding which assets to transfer to the trust and selecting a trustee, the grantor can create the trust document with the help of an attorney and sign it in front of a notary public. After this final step, assets can be transferred into the trust.
In Florida, establishing a living trust has many financial and logistical benefits. For more information about the estate planning process, call Doran Sims Wolfe Ciocchetti & Yoon at (386) 868-2157 for a free consultation.
Hurricane Irma is now a Cat 5 Hurricane. Meanwhile, nearly a year later, we are still intaking Hurricane Matthew claims from insureds who held out hope that their insurance company would do right by them. My recommendation is and will always be to have representation immediately. There is no reason why an insured should go unrepresented in the claims process. Look at it this way, the insurance company has its team of adjusters and engineers. Why should an insured not be on the same level playing field as the insurance company? In my experience, I have never handled a claim where the insurance company found all the covered damage and immediately paid an appropriate amount to restore a property to its pre-loss condition. After a claim, an insured should immediately seek legal representation to properly preserve and prepare the claim, which includes proper documentation (including differentiating conditions which existed pre v. post loss), analysis (including expert retention) and valuation (utilizing qualified experts) of the loss.
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My wife and I took a drive up A1A to one of our favorite places, St. Augustine. The drive along the coast is a great way to wind down after a long work week. While this is a regular excursion for us, we had not been to St. Augustine since Hurricane Matthew until recently. During the drive, I could not stop pointing out all the mismatched shingles & roof tiles, granular loss and blue tarps.
Understandably, my wife wanted me to turn off “work mode”. That was the point of the drive, right? However, I could not help to wonder how many homeowners were taken advantage of not knowing that a policyholder may be entitled, under Florida law, to matching shingle/tile replacement. In many instances, in the event a matching replacement cannot be located, the insurance company must pay for entire roof replacement per Florida law. What is meant by granular loss? Simply, look at a shingle roof. If you can see a pattern in the shingles that was not there before the hurricane, then you may have granular loss. It may be more defined now, several months later, as dirt accumulates differently depending on the amount of granules on a shingle. As for tarps, why are there so many tarps still? Are roofing companies that backlogged or are insurance companies failing to pay insurance benefits?
The frequency of shady contractors swindling homeowners in insurance claims has dramatically increased since Hurricane Matthew devastated the area. The contractors’ method of deception is forcing a homeowner to sign an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). While most insurance policies allow for a homeowner to assign benefits to a third party, such an assignment is not required or mandated in order to receive benefits. Many contractors approach the homeowner with an AOB form and suggest that it must be signed before they can proceed with providing a repair estimate.
If you sign an AOB you can no longer deal directly with the insurance carrier to resolve your claim. The claims adjuster can only legally negotiate with the contractor and payments will be made directly to the contractor. Unfortunately, some contractors cash claims checks without making any repairs to the insured’s home.
There is currently pending before the 2017 Florida Legislature a bill that will greatly reduce the ability for contractors to defraud homeowners with AOBs. If passed, under the new law an AOB will not be valid unless it is signed by all persons insured under the policy and includes a seven-day period in which the insured may cancel or void the assignment without penalty. Most importantly, the AOB must contain a written, itemized, per-unit cost estimate of the work to be performed.
Until new legislation is passed, however, your rights as a policyholder and claimant could be compromised if you sign an AOB. If a contractor asks you to sign a contract, estimate or other document, contact our office and allow one of our attorneys to review the document with you and assure your interests are protected.