The responsibility of writing a contract is ominous because it is law making. A contract that you write for yourself and which another person agrees to is a matter of personal law. In a person’s life, the occasion inevitably presents itself to write a contract just to be sure of an agreement between you and another party. The occasion can be a marriage, an automobile purchase, a tax return or the creation of a business. In this case we focus on the discussion of the documentation used in the creation of a Florida Land Trust.A Land Trust Agreement is, in part, one such occasion. This workshop is not intended to make any of you lawyers. It is intended to give you a better understanding of the documentation that arises under the conversion of property into a Land Trust. My Name is Michael Belgeri, I am the course presenter for this on-line workshop
In a land Trust agreement’s terminology there should be a clear understanding on the part of all concerned parties as to meaning, so in the agreement we present for your review we followed a series of rules, lets call the contract commandments…
We can move through five pretty quickly the first 3, five and six. Commandments I and VI are corollaries. If you have to write a contract out long hand, don’t. But if you have to, Don’t do it a second time. But if you really have too. OK, you have no choice but a hand writing. Then PRINT your text in block letters using black ink and put all fill in’s in Blue.Looking at our 3 different viewpoint Land Trust agreements we can give all of them a passing grade for these rules simply because nothing is hand written.
“Once upon a time” use to be the way one began telling a story to children. They grew out of it years ago. But it would seem that adults in the Judicial system have difficulty growing out of old habits like the terms ‘whereas’, ‘witnesseth’, ‘hereinafter’, ‘herein’ and ‘thereof’.A Land Trust agreement is a matter of Personal Law as is any contract so it is necessary to make the document and its statements as clear and concise as possible. On the left you see the typical phraseology born by the “Recital’s section of the Land Trust Agreement while on the right is a simple English statement. It reads” THIS CONTRACT IS MADE WITH REFERENCE TO THE FOLLOWING FACTS”.On page one of the document there are 4 paragraphs that outline the objective and purpose of the Land Trust agreement. Above it you see the Name of the Trust, the Date, the Beneficiary and Trustee identification lines.
The use of written documentation by those who want it clearly understood implies a logical pattern of thought and an outline that makes logical sense as well as contextual sense. We structured this Agreement’s second page to illustrated the three players in the document, the property, the beneficiary and the Trustee. The layout clearly defines this viewpoint.Both the attorney and the county documents present a numbering system and acknowledge key elements with their respective headers, but, again, because this is a personal document we were looking for as much visual clarity with the paperwork as possible.
Consider this. First, few Florida residents or investors have knowledge or understanding of the Land Trust Agreement. That could be because even fewer practicing Florida Attorneys are familiar with its power and its communication dynamics requirements. The terms beneficiary and trustee under a Florida Land Trust are unique in their definition and powers. Here on page two of the Agreement we emphasis the order of authority and flow of power from the Beneficiary, “by Direction and Consent” to the Trustee. In a Land Trust a “Direction” is an order given by the beneficiary, or beneficiaries, to the Trustee, for example, the Trustee is ‘directed’ to sign the Title.
In writing a Land Trust Agreement the rights and control of the beneficiaries are critical to the ability of the document to serve its purpose. In this section the Agreement is clearly delineating the scope of the beneficiary’s authority and limitations with respect to the Trustee. The value of the document in Florida lies in its 500 year legal capacity to hold back the power of state authority over the land for which it is written. That includes the documents ability to protect from liability, partition and public knowledge.
Standing between the Beneficiary’s asset and the public record is the central character in the life of the Land Trust, the Trustee. The art and legality of the Land Trust lies in defining the tasks, roles and duties of the trustee as well as the succession rules of the trustee because, remember, a Trustee can be a person, an entity or the same persona as the beneficiary.
Under Trustee Powers, our document stipulates “By Direction and Consent of the Beneficiary:” to begin each power. Both “Direction and Consent” activities are dynamic. They can change. New Directions will probably occur and new consent may be sought depending on the activity on around or above the property in Trust. In this Trust you see that we cover particular tasks defining the authority that can be handed out to the Trustee when needed.
The three powers here are obvious to an owner of property. In the case of Commercial property they are sensibly set out. But, as we bring the use of the Land Trust Powers into the hands of small investors and residential homeowners, it is critical to the success of this Florida entity that all key elements of responsibility are clearly defined…here, selling, trading, renting and repairing are specified.
In reviewing each of the three Trust agreements we used for this document we found the tasks and authoritative designation recitals in a sort of random fashion across each of the documents. The agreement renders and orders a priority of task and duty assignments. We provide you grouping of everything pertinent for each party in the property Trust responsibilities.
Remember that the original purpose of the “Illinois Trust” had nothing to do with a residential properties. It was all about land for the Railroads or high rise rental incomes for the Chicago State Legislators. The original purpose of the Florida Land Trust was similar, to take private the acquisition of properties for the development that would be known today as Disneyworld. The use of the Land Trust benefits for residential home owners or small investors is a relatively new development.
Contract Analysis WorkshopRecitals and Commandments
I Write legibly.II. Date the Contract.III. Make Sure it is signed by both parties.IV. Do not use archaic terms.V. Leave a healthy margin.VI. Use a Black Pen and bloc letters if you have to hand write it. Blue ink for signatures.VII. Choose easy-to-use numbering.VIII. Beware of using standard clauses.IX. Be careful in your choice of words.X. Never sign a contract without Reading it.--Lloyd Duhaime, Contract Law