The Florida Land Trust
Florida Land Trust
HistoryLet's be honest, here in Naples, Florida, real estate is a big deal. People love the area, the homes, the land and everything it has to offer, so naturally as an Estate Planning lawyer I commonly receive the question from clients and potential clients of, "What is a Land Trust?"
The Land Trust is actually a very useful legal device when utilized properly and can potentially serve multiple beneficial purposes. The Land Trust Act was created by Florida legislatures in 1963 (F.S. Section 689.071). An interesting side note is that Disney World was put together privately with the help of Land Trusts, keeping the real owner of the tracts of land off the public records while it was being pieced together. The real owner of these tracts of land, as we all know now was none other than Walt Disney. Using Land Trusts allowed Walt Disney to privately purchase and own these tracts of land without raising flags or suspicions of his plans.
Land TrustBasically, this is how a Land Trust works, a Land Trust transfers real property to a Trustee through a deed. The Trustee then holds the real property for the real owner. The real owner is known as the Beneficiary. This is essentially done to protect owners of the real property and keep their ownership of the real property private / anonymous and out of probate.
Typically, you or anyone can go onto the property appraiser's website and look up a piece of property and easily discover who owns the real property. If you want to give this a shot and you live in Collier County, then go to www.collierappraiser.com and have fun searching for real property records and discovering who owns that mansion down the street.
When utilizing a Land Trust, it is private as there is no public record of the Beneficiaries of the Land Trust. Instead the Trustee is listed on public record and is the only name that will show up as being associated with the real property. Only the Trustee knows the real identity of the Beneficiaries.
There are many reasons why people want to keep ownership of land anonymous, such as keeping their name off public records from a stalker or maybe from keeping their nosey relatives or friends from seeing how much land they own (or how wealthy they are). Another major benefit of the Land Trust is the fact that the real property owned by the Land Trust does not have to go through probate proceedings. The real property will just automatically pass to beneficiaries without the need of the court's intervention.
Another common question that I often receive is, "Well can't the Trustee just sell my real property without me knowing?" When your lawyer drafts the Land Trust agreement it should have language in it that prevents the Trustee from selling the Beneficiary's land without the consent, in writing, from the Beneficiary. This essentially means that the Beneficiary must approve the sale of the land for it to occur. The Trustee must abide by the language that is implemented into the Land Trust agreement.