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Revocable trusts may reduce Florida estate disputes

West Palm Beach readers may know that a parent's death often leads to inheritance disputes among children, even when the terms of a will seem to clearly set forth the testator's intent. Although a simple will may work well for some estates, the shortcoming of a will is that it must pass through probate court before estate assets may be distributed.

The delays inherent in the probate process provide fertile ground for family disputes. For that reason, some estate planning professionals who once recommended revocable trusts as an alternative best suited to older and wealthier individuals are now taking a different view. In light of certain advantages, a revocable trust may be the wise estate planning choice for individuals of all ages.

A trust establishes a legal entity, similar to a business entity, to assume ownership of a person's assets. An appointed trustee assumes control of the trust assets upon the death of the settlor. The trustee has legal authority to distribute assets according to trust terms without the need for probate court oversight. Because the trust operates outside of probate court administration, it can reduce the chances for family disputes over the distribution of estate assets.

Estate planning professionals who recommend revocable trusts point out that a trust needs to be carefully drafted in order to serve the purpose of avoiding estate disputes. In order to operate effectively, a revocable trust also needs a reliable trustee willing to take on the responsibility of administering trust assets.

Although a revocable trust will not be the best option for everyone, Florida residents may want to consider asking an estate planning professional whether a revocable trust presents a good option for efficient, low-conflict estate administration.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "How to Avoid Fights Over Inheritance," David Francis, July 17, 2012

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