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Leaving instructions for heirs

When considering estate planning in Florida, wills and trusts are two kinds of legal tools that may help one when leaving behind things for heirs. A will is the basic document that lists who will receive property and assets, but those who want more control when distributing an estate might want a trust.

A trust can dictate how any assets are used after one passes as a decedent could leave instructions ranging from the general to the specific as long as any restrictions set do not break laws. One could state that an heir cannot receive a trust until a certain age or that an heir must earn a degree before getting an inheritance. One can also stagger payments from an estate so that heirs receive funds incrementally during a set period of time.

If a decedent and an heir have differing views, setting restrictions could be tricky. For example, one could not prohibit an heir from entering into a same-sex marriage in order to receive funds from a trust. If two people have differing political views, one could state that the other person cannot donate trust funds to a designated party or certain causes. However, this might be overturned in court if the restriction violates the heir's freedom of expression rights. One solution might involve listing approved uses for the funds like paying for bills or health insurance instead of listing things one prohibits.

Estate planning involves a lot of thought and decision-making, and figuring out whether one needs a will, trust or both is only part of the process. While a trust allows one to have more control about when and how assets can be used, one must appoint an executor to manage one's estate and ensure one's wishes are met. When making decisions about an estate, an attorney may be needed.

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