When planning your estate in Florida, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to use a will or a trust. Both options have their own advantages and considerations, and understanding these can help you make an informed choice that aligns with your personal and financial goals.


Understanding Wills and Trusts


A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets will be distributed upon your death. It allows you to name beneficiaries, designate guardians for minor children, and specify your final wishes. However, a will must go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates the will and oversees the distribution of assets.


A trust is a legal entity that holds assets on behalf of beneficiaries. There are different types of trusts, but the most common is a revocable living trust. This type of trust can be altered during your lifetime and becomes irrevocable upon your death. Assets placed in a trust avoid probate, allowing for a faster and more private distribution to beneficiaries with lower administrative costs.


Will vs. Trust: Which is Better?

Deciding between a will and a trust depends on your specific circumstances and goals:

  • Probate Avoidance: If avoiding probate is a priority due to the costs, time, and public nature, a trust is generally a better option.
  • Simplicity and Cost: Wills are typically simpler and less expensive to set up initially compared to trusts. However, the costs and delays associated with probate often offset these initial savings.
  • Privacy: Trusts offer greater privacy since they do not go through probate.
  • Control During Lifetime: A revocable living trust allows you to manage and benefit from your assets during your lifetime and provides flexibility to change the trust terms as needed.
  • Protection:  A revocable living trust allows you to put protections in place to ensure your beneficiaries are protected against “creditors and predators.”


How Much Does It Cost to File a Florida Probate Case?

The cost of filing a probate case in Florida can vary widely depending on the complexity of the estate and the county where the probate is filed. Generally, the costs can include:

– Filing Fees: Typically range from $200 to $400.

– Attorney Fees: Florida law allows attorneys to charge a percentage of the estate’s value, usually around 3%.

– Personal Representative Fees: The executor of the will is entitled to a fee, which can also be a percentage of the estate.

For example, an estate that includes a home worth $500,000; personal property worth $100,000; and Investments of $100,000 would expect to see attorney fees for probate at $21,000.  If the executor takes a 3% commission, that’s another $21,000 for a total of $42,000.  A Living Trust is much more economical in the long run while giving you greater protections and control over your estate.


How Long Does a Florida Probate Case Take?

The duration of a probate case in Florida depends on several factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, whether the will is contested, and how quickly all parties can be notified and respond. On average, probate can take between six months to a year. Complex cases or those involving disputes can take much longer, sometimes several years.


Is a Florida Probate Case Private?

Probate proceedings in Florida are a matter of public record. This means that anyone can access the details of the case, including information about the estate’s assets, debts, beneficiaries, and the terms of the will. For individuals who value privacy, this public nature of probate is a significant disadvantage.


Does Transferring Property Cause a Re-assessment of the Property Value?

Clients often worry that transferring property to a trust might lead to negative consequences, such as a reassessment of the property’s fair market value, the forfeiture of the Florida “Save Our Homes” cap on increases to taxable value, or the loss of homestead protection under the Florida constitution. Most transfers to a trust do not carry these risks. However, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about your specific circumstances.


Why Choose The Purdy Firm?

At The Purdy Firm, we understand that estate planning is a deeply personal matter, and we’re here to help you navigate the complexities of Florida law. With our expertise and personalized approach, we can assist you in creating an estate plan that protects your assets, preserves your privacy, and ensures your final wishes are carried out according to your wishes.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and take the first step toward securing your legacy and peace of mind.