Over the years, we’ve discovered that many people make a BIG mistake, catapulting their assets and loved ones right into the probate court system. Most of our clients want to avoid probate court because it has a reputation for being expensive, time consuming, stressful – and public, meaning anyone anywhere can see who got what and how to contact them. Beneficiaries may become victims to nosey neighbors, predators, and unscrupulous “charities.”
Q: What’s the one mistake that causes all these problems?
A: An unfunded trust.
In this issue you will learn:
What it means to fund your trust
What happens to assets left out of your trust
Which assets should, and should not, be funded into your trust
How funding your trust will ensure your final wishes are carried out and save your loved ones valuable time, money, and the frustration of going to court – while preserving privacy
What Does it Mean to Fund Your Trust?
Funding a trust is simply the process of transferring assets from your name into the name of your trust. Often, beneficiary designations are changed to your trust as well.
Funding is accomplished in three ways:
Changing the title of the asset from your individual name (or joint names if you’re married) to the name of your trust – for example, from Jane Smith to Jane Smith, Trustee of the Jane Smith Living Trust dated January 1, 2016.
Assigning your interest in an asset without a title (such as artwork, jewelry, collectibles or antiques) to your trust.
Changing the primary or contingent beneficiary of the asset to your trust. Think life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities.
Planning Tip: Put together a list of your assets, their values, and locations, then start funding the most valuable ones and work your way down. Keep plugging away until your trust is fully funded. Our office can help.
What Happens to Assets Left Out of Your Trust?
For many people, avoiding probate court is a main reason they set up a revocable living trust in the first place. Unfortunately, you are not “done” when the trust documents are signed. If you don’t take the next step to fund, probate court is guaranteed.
WARNING: If your trust is left unfunded, you will send your family and assets into probate court.
Which Assets Should, and Should Not, Be Funded Into Your Trust?
In general, you will probably want to fund the following assets into your trust:
Real estate – homes, rental properties, vacant land and timeshares
Bank and credit union accounts – checking, savings, CDs
Safe deposit boxes
Investment accounts – brokerage, agency, custody
Notes payable to you
Life insurance – if you don’t have an irrevocable life insurance trust
Oil and gas interests
Personal effects – artwork, jewelry, collectibles, antiques
On the other hand, you will probably not want to fund the following assets into your trust:
IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts – only the beneficiary should be changed
Incentive stock options and Section 1244 stock
Interests in professional corporations
Foreign assets – in some countries funding an asset into a U.S.- based trust causes adverse tax consequences, while in other countries trusts aren’t recognized or are ignored due to forced heirship laws
UTMA and UGMA accounts – your minor grandchild is the owner, not you as the custodian; instead, name a successor custodian
Cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and scooters – most states allow a small amount of assets, including vehicles, to pass outside of probate, in others, a beneficiary can be designated for vehicles, and in others, vehicles don’t have to go through probate at all
Planning Tip: Work closely with your estate planning attorney to determine what should go into your trust and what should stay out. Our office can help.
What Are the Benefits of Trust Funding?
Funding your trust makes it possible to obtain trust benefits:
Your trust is easy to update.
Your trustee, instead of a judge, will take control of your trust assets if you become incapacitated or die.
Your trustee will have direct access to your trust assets without a court order.
Your trustee will be empowered to pay bills and manage, invest, sell, and reinvest your trust assets without court intervention.
Your private wishes will remain private instead of being publicized.
Settlement time, costs, and frustration are reduced.
The Bottom Line on Trust Funding
A trust has a myriad of benefits, including probate avoidance. Yet, in the end, an unfunded trust doesn’t avoid probate.
ACT NOW: Call our office now and we’ll help you make sure your assets are owned properly and that your trust is up to date.
Contact a Madison Estate Planning Attorney
The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.
Contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form.