Do I need a Will, a Trust or Both? We Hear This Question Every Day!

A Will

If you die without a will it is known as dying intestate. While many believe that their close family members “know what they want”, it doesn’t necessarily go your way without a valid will. Instead, their money and property are distributed according to Florida’s intestate succession laws, during a Probate action.  

In Florida, intestate succession hinges on whether a person is married and has children with their spouse. 

If the decedent (one who has passed away) is married and they have children together, the spouse inherits 100 percent of the estate. 

If the decedent is married and has children from a previous relationship, the spouse inherits 50 percent of the estate and their children receive the other 50 percent. 

But even if someone is fine with the state-imposed inheritance laws, a beneficiary will be required to go through the expensive and long process called “Probate.”.

The law can only assume what you would want, but it may cause your wishes to go haywire. For instance, imagine you have been in a relationship without a formal marriage certificate for many years and love your partner dearly.  If you pass without a will, that partner may not inherit according to intestacy laws.

Florida places legally adopted children on the same level as biological children. But step-children will not inherit through intestacy laws.  

What is a Trust?

A basic Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that creates a relationship between you and a Trustee.  You can name yourself as Trustee to manage your own assets.  A Trustee will oversee and hold assets on your behalf during your lifetime and on behalf of your beneficiaries upon your passing. There are many different types of trusts such as irrevocable trusts, and a whole slew of alphabet soup trusts such as a SLAT, GRAT, or ILIT.

Trust vs. Will

Both trusts and wills determine who will receive your assets, yet the two remain very different. Unlike trusts, which can be used to avoid the probate process, a will cannot. Wills require probate to take effect as desired. I call a will a “Dear Judge Letter,” because a judge will need to review it, make sure it is signed correctly and contains all required elements. 

While wills take into effect after passing and are intended to support the wishes included in the will for the executors and heirs, trusts take effect once properly signed and are intended to have an impact both in life and in death. This means that a trust may include provisions that determine the steps that are to be taken in the case of mental or physical incapacitation. 

Andrea L. Jakob, PA is located at 12401 Orange Drive, Suite 219 in Davie.
They can be reached at 954-862-1479 or on the at