It seems everyone has heard that a “living trust”—or more properly a “revocable living trust”—is a good way to “avoid probate” after you die.  But fewer people know what that really means, and what way a trust can—and cannot–help during your lifetime and after death.  Here’s five basic things you should know:


  1. You control your assets during your lifetime.  With a living trust, your assets—your home, bank accounts, stocks, etc.—are put into the trust, used for your benefit during your lifetime, and then transferred to your named beneficiaries when you die.  Most people name themselves as the trustee in charge of those assets.  And “revocable” means you can amend or revoke the trust at any time.  Contrary to popular belief however, a revocable living trust is not protection against creditors.


  1. You choose your successor trustee.  While you will normally be the trustee while you are alive and capable, you name the person you trust to succeed you in case you become incapacitated and cannot manage the assets, and the person who will take over when you die.  The terms of the trust will specify how those assets are to be managed if you are incapacitated, and how they are to be distributed at death.


  1. You must transfer your assets into the trust.  Once the trust is set up, you must transfer your assets into it.  Deeds to your real estate must be prepared and recorded; bank and investment accounts must be put into the name of your trust.  Sometimes lenders will not be willing to lend or refinance when real property is held by the trust; if real property is put into your name for financing purposes, be sure to transfer it back into the trust as soon as possible.


  1. You still need a will.  A living trust is part of a complete estate plan that includes a will.  If, as sometimes happens, you have assets at your death that are not in the trust’s name, a will provides that those assets are transferred to the trust upon your death, and are then distributed according the terms of the trust.    


  1. You avoid probate court.  At your death, assets held in your trust are managed by your chosen successor trustee and distributed to your beneficiaries without court supervision or involvement.  This not only saves your heirs both time and money, but your assets, their value, and the identity of your beneficiaries can remain private.   If your assets are not in a living trust when you die, they must go through probate: a court-supervised process for transferring your assets to your beneficiaries (if you have a will) or legal heirs (if you don’t).

If you have any questions or need help with your trust, call us at 916-388-5100 or email us at info@molaw.com we hope to hear from you soon!




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