Totten Trust in Florida: What is a Florida Totten Trust?
A Totten Trust in Florida, pursuant to Florida Statute § 655.82, is otherwise known as a “Pay on Death” or POD account. It is often utilized as a mechanism for giving a beneficiary the remaining money in the bank account of the decedent. The decedent is the person that has recently died and whose assets are ready to be distributed (pending any contests from heirs and or creditors). According to F.S. § 655.82(b), a “Beneficiary” means a person named as one to whom sums on deposit in an account are payable on request after death of all parties or for whom a party is named as trustee. A so-called pay-on-death beneficiary in a Totten Trust in Florida is a beneficiary status created by the terms specific to the trust. This might seem obvious, but the Florida Totten Trust beneficiary must survive the decedent or else the will might control the distribution of the remaining funds in the account. Moreover, if there are several surviving (and designated beneficiaries), statutorily the survivors will inherit “equal and undivided” shares under a Totten Trust in Florida. After the creator of the Totten Trust has died, the intended beneficiary still needs to undergo an additional step. The beneficiary must present the decedent’s death certificate to to the bank where the money is held in trust. Only then will the bank release the funds to the rightful beneficiary. This is a formal requirement and perhaps a technicality, but think about the bank’s position. If they simply give the decedent’s money to anyone claiming to be the intended beneficiary (without adequate proof) or before the creator of the Totten Trust in Florida has died, there could be severe legal implications for all parties involved.
Florida Totten Trust and Florida Totten Trust Case Law
Florida Totten Trust Case law precedent in Serpa v. North Ridge Bank, 547 So.2d 199 (1989) provides that for a Totten trust to be revoked in a testator’s final will, the will itself should unequivocally demonstrate an intention to revoke trust. Moreover, the court also ruled that the mere mention of a bank account in a will, without specifying that it is a Totten Trust, is insufficient to overturn the Trust despite what those dosputing the will believe to have been (allegedly) the testator’s intention. This is why in Litsey v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Ass’n of Tampa, So.2d 239 (1971), the Court decided that the burden for a litigant seeking to overturn a Totten Trust is extremely high, and oral statements are presumed, on their own, to be insufficient.
More recent, and perhaps less foundational Florida Totten Trust case law, tells us that Florida recognizes a corporation (politics aside folks) as a person, and therefore a corporation may qualify as a lawful beneficiary of a Florida Totten Trust. Belanger v. Salvation Army, C.A.11 (Fla.) 2009, 556 F.3d 1153.
Call the Jacobs Law Firm today to find our more. Often, we find that because wills and trusts are so closely related with family law issues, that you may wish to additionally retain us as your civil litigation attorney, or as your family law attorney.