Land Trusts, Corporate Transparency, and Real Estate in Estate Planning: Navigating the Complexities

Estate planning is an intricate process, especially when it involves real estate. Land trusts, the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), and various real estate issues play significant roles in this domain. This article delves into these aspects, providing clarity for estate planners and real estate professionals.

What Are Land Trusts?

A land trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds the title to real estate for the benefit of another party. Land trusts offer several advantages:

  • Anonymity: The beneficiary’s identity is kept confidential, providing privacy.
  • Liability Division: Limits the liability of the beneficiary.
  • Ease of Transfer: Simplifies the process of transferring property interests.

Key Legal Provisions:

  • Florida Land Trust Act (FS 689.071 and 689.073): Governs the creation and operation of land trusts in Florida.
  • Homestead Issues: Beneficiaries residing on the property can still qualify for homestead protection if the trust deed includes the “Magical Homestead Trust Clause.”

Benefits of Land Trusts Compared to LLCs or Corporations

Land trusts are often more advantageous than LLCs or corporations for holding real estate:

  • Not an Entity: Land trusts are considered more of an agency relationship rather than a separate legal entity.
  • Tax Advantages: They are disregarded by the IRS, which can simplify tax reporting.
  • Cost-Effective: Setting up and managing land trusts is generally faster, easier, and cheaper.

Corporate Transparency Act and Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Reporting

The Corporate Transparency Act mandates that entities disclose beneficial ownership information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This aims to prevent money laundering and other illicit activities. Estate planners must understand these requirements to ensure compliance.

Key Points:

  • Entities Formed Before and After January 1, 2024: Must file BOI reports.
  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: Include substantial fines and potential legal action.
  • Potential Future Regulations: Trusts may also be required to report beneficial ownership information.

Real Estate Issues in Estate Planning

Real estate transactions in estate planning can be complex, involving several considerations:

  • Enhanced Life Estate and Transfer on Death (TOD) Deeds: These tools can help avoid probate and simplify the transfer of property upon death.
  • Documentary Stamp Taxes: Taxes that must be paid when transferring property. The amount varies depending on the property’s value and the nature of the transfer.
  • Due-on-Sale Clause: Ensures that any outstanding mortgage is paid off upon the sale of the property.

Scenarios Involving Documentary Taxes:

  1. Adding a Spouse to Title: Taxes depend on the value of the mortgage.
  2. Transferring Property with a Mortgage: Taxes may be due based on the outstanding mortgage amount.
  3. Transfer to an LLC: Documentary stamp taxes are usually required.


Navigating the complexities of land trusts, corporate transparency requirements, and real estate issues is essential for effective estate planning. Estate planners and real estate professionals must stay informed and compliant with the latest regulations to protect their clients’ interests and ensure smooth transitions of property ownership.