Estate planning is a critical process for individuals desiring to protect their assets, and a key part of this involves understanding the various types of wills and estate planning documents available. At Lumsden Law, we guide clients through the different options to find the best fit for their unique circumstances. In this blog, we’ll explore the various types of wills and how they function in the state of Florida.

1. Last Will and Testament

The most commonly known document is the Last Will and Testament. This legal document outlines how an individual’s assets should be distributed after death, and names guardians for minor children in case of a parent’s untimely passing. It is important to note that in Florida, a Last Will and Testament does not necessarily avoid probate, the legal process through which a will is reviewed by a court to determine whether it is valid and authentic. The will serves as a roadmap for the Personal Representative (executor) to administer the estate, but the court must first appoint this representative.

2. Revocable Living Trust

Another option is a Revocable Living Trust, which can help avoid the probate process. This trust transfers assets during the trust maker’s lifetime to a trustee, typically the same person as the trust maker. The trust is like a bucket holding all of the assets of the estate privately, with the trust maker maintaining control during their lifetime. Upon the trust maker’s death, a successor trustee, named in the trust, has immediate authority to manage the trust assets without court appointment. This arrangement streamlines asset management after death and keeps the process private.

3. Pourover Will

When creating a Revocable Living Trust, a Pourover Will is often executed alongside it. This type of will attempts to take control over any assets that were not placed into the trust during the trust maker’s lifetime. The Pourover Will directs these overlooked assets into the trust upon death, potentially avoiding additional probate procedures.

4. Mirror Wills for Married Couples

For married couples who prefer wills to a Joint Revocable Living Trust, “Mirror Wills” are a common choice. These are two separate Last Wills and Testaments, one for each spouse, with terms and conditions that closely reflect (or “mirror”) each other. This promotes a harmonious estate plan that aligns with both spouses’ wishes, and is effective when both spouses desire the same asset management structure and distribution schedule.

5. Living Will (Advance Directive)

Lastly, it’s crucial to differentiate a Living Will from a Last Will and Testament. In Florida, a Living Will is also known as an Advance Directive. The Living Will is a healthcare document that takes effect while the individual is still alive, outlining their wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care, rather than the distribution of assets managed by a Last Will and Testament after death.

Conclusion | Choosing the Right Will

At Lumsden Law, we understand that navigating the world of estate planning can be complex. Each type of will or trust serves a different purpose and offers various benefits. Our goal is to help you understand these differences and choose the right type of document for your individual needs. Whether you need a straightforward Last Will and Testament, a Revocable Living Trust to avoid probate, or a specific arrangement like Mirror Wills, our team is here to guide you through every step of the process.

Remember, estate planning is not just about distributing assets; it is about peace of mind, control over your legacy, and the assurance that your wishes will be honored. Contact Lumsden Law today to discuss your estate planning needs and find the best solution for your unique situation.