Are Your Trust Funds Titled Correctly?

October 30, 2021

Trust Funding: Is Everything Titled Correctly?

You’ve had your trust documents drafted and signed, now you assume your estate plan is in place and no further action is required. Unfortunately, this is not all that needs to be done to ensure your estate plan is effective. For any trust to have actual value, it needs to be funded. 

The process of funding your trust is essential to leave property, cash, and other assets to your beneficiaries. Learn more about trust funding and proper titling below. 

How to Fund Your Trust

Funding is the process of moving assets, such as money and property into the appropriate trust. To fully understand funding, imagine your trust as an empty bucket. The bucket by itself doesn’t offer much usefulness, but once you fill the bucket up, it has a purpose. Trusts function similarly in that they are only useful when they have money or property in them. 

The funding process involves retitling your assets in the name of your trust. Bank accounts, property, and any other assets will need to be titled in the trust’s name in order for them to be included in that trust, otherwise, it will remain empty. This can be done in one of two ways: 

  1. Transfer ownership of your accounts and property from you (individually) to yourself as a trustee of your trust. 
  2. Designate beneficiaries and name the trust as a beneficiary on other types of property such as life insurance.

By doing this, your trust can be easily handed over to a successor trustee to manage in the event of your incapacitation - without the need for court intervention. Your successor trustee will have the right and responsibility to use the assets placed in the trust for you and your beneficiaries while you are unable to manage those things on your own. Fortunately, fully funded living trusts are exempt from the probate process, which provides a superior method of managing the trust for streamlined asset distribution and much more. 

To properly fund your trust, you’ll need to work with the financial organizations you bank with to transfer ownership of your accounts into the trust’s name. Any real property you own will also need to be transferred into the trust’s name which may require a new deed to be signed with the correct information. Take a look at some of the common types of property that can be included or funded in your trust:

Cash Accounts (Checking & Savings)  

Accounts including checking, savings, money market, and certificate of deposit (CD) should all be regularly funded to your trust. To do this, you’ll need to work with the bank or credit union in which you have accounts to retitle them into your trust’s name. Commonly, you will be required to provide a certificate of trust that contains information the financial institution will need to complete the transfer. Just be sure that there are no early withdrawal penalties for retitling your CD accounts. 

Real Estate and Real Property

Real estate may refer to your personal residence or another property (commercial, residential, or industrial) owned by you. Real property refers to the interests associated with property such as mineral or timber rights. Both types of property will require the help of an estate planning attorney to prepare the appropriate documents and ensure the property deeds are signed and sealed specifically for your trust. 

Investments

Investment accounts will also need to be transferred into your trust’s name which can be accomplished through your financial advisor or broker of a custodial account. To do this, a certificate of trust is often necessary for proper retitling of your investments.  

Personal Items

Personal effects may include items such as jewelry, furniture, clothing, photos, artwork, collections, tools, vehicles, and more. You can easily move these items into your trust by signing an assignment of personal property.

Life Insurance

In regards to your life insurance, it’s best to name your trust as the primary beneficiary of the policy so that the trust has authority over the earnings garnered from said policy. It is then customary to name loved ones or other special persons such as a spouse, partner, or child as secondary beneficiaries. Most insurance companies have processes in place that allow these changes to be made easily. To change the primary beneficiary on your life insurance policy, contact your insurance agent to get the proper beneficiary designation forms filled out and filed.  

Retirement Assets

Retirement assets may include individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401k plans. Typically, it is not recommended to transfer ownership of these accounts to your trust due to the serious tax implications they pose for the plan’s owner. Before you assign your trust as the primary beneficiary on your retirement accounts, it’s crucial that you understand the potential tax consequences associated with this plan of action. Fortunately, your estate planning attorney can help you assess these risks and make the most appropriate decision for you. 

Other Assets to Consider

The most common types of property are listed above, but these aren’t the only assets that you may want to be funded into your trust. To ensure that your legacy goes to the appropriate beneficiaries, and to avoid probate, it’s important to include all of your assets in your trust. Some of the other types of property that should be funded into your trust include:

  • mortgages, loans, promissory notes, or other receivables
  • business interests such as partnerships, LLCs, or small business stock
  • royalties from books and art 
  • trademarks and copyrights
  • digital assets such as income streams from online content 
  • health savings accounts (HSA)

Trust Funding with Reputable Estate Planning Attorneys AD&R

Your estate plans matter more than you may think. While many people assume they don’t have adequate assets to warrant the need for a living trust or other types of estate plans, this isn’t the case. Reputable estate planning attorneys can help you develop an effective estate plan that safeguards your assets and ensures your legacy for generations to come. 

Connect with Anderson, Dorn & Rader today to have your trust documents drafted and titled, and your trusts properly funded. We’ll help you retitle your accounts and ensure correct ownership of your property for an effective estate plan.

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