Do I need a trust?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Do I need a trust?

I am a married male with a wife and one grown daughter and 3 grandchildren, living in Florida. I have a small estate, just a house, 3 vehicles and no investments. If either I or my wife dies first, we plan to put in our wills that everything goes to the surviving spouse. I know trusts sometimes avoid probate, but with such a simple estate, do I need to worry about avoiding Florida’s probate? Would a will be all I need, or do I need a trust or other vehicle? Thanks

Asked on January 22, 2019 under Estate Planning, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Remember, with a trust, you take your assets out of your direct control and put the in the hands of a trustee, who is supposed to (is legally obligated to) follow the terms or instructions of the trust, but who may not do so. The main valid reasons for a trust is not to avoid probate--I do not know why everyone fears probate so much; it is not a particularly onerous or expensive thing--but
1) if you don't trust the people getting the assets and want someone  else to make decisions for them or manage the money for them.
2) You looking to set up a structure to support or provide for several generations.
For a simple estate, a will is fine. If you and your wife are on the house's title as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the survivor instantly and automatically becomes sole owner without the house going through probate when one of you dies. If you are both on the vehicles' titles, then when one passes, the other keeps the vehicle. So really, the main assets can even pass outside of probate, and your will covers just your money and personal property (jewlery, electronics, etc.).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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