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Florida allows greater flexibility for trust administration

A trust is a way of dividing ownership of property. The original owner grants legal control of the property to a trustee, who manages the money for the benefit of the grantor. Among other things, this arrangement allows the grantor's heirs to avoid the expense and headaches of probate after the grantor dies.

In traditional trust administration, the standard arrangement was an irrevocable trust. That is, once the grantor established the trust, it was very hard for the grantor or his or her beneficiaries to ever change the arrangement. More recently in Florida and other states, the more popular option has been to create a revocable trust, which offers more flexibility. But those who are beneficiaries of a trust that was set up to be irrevocable often still find it very difficult to alter the trust when circumstances make it necessary to do so.

Fortunately, a number of states have started to change this aspect of trusts, creating what some call decanting laws. Florida and more than a dozen other states have allowed this practice, in which beneficiaries can essentially write a new trust and decant the old trust's assets into the new one.

The laws are still relatively new, and there may be some tax consequences or other complications associated with decanting. However, modern estate planning allows grantors more freedom than ever before. It also allows beneficiaries much greater flexibility in adjusting a trust to meet changing circumstances.

Source: Barons.com, "How to Bust a Trust," Tatiana Serafin, March 2, 2013

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