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Creating your revocable living trust is the first step of your estate planning. Once you sign your trust, however, there is additional work to be done. A trust needs to be funded with the property you want the instructions in your trust to apply to. Simply attaching a list of your assets as a schedule to your trust is not sufficient to fund your trust. Funding your trust means making ownership changes to the title of certain assets from your own name as an individual to your name as trustee of your revocable trust. It may mean changing beneficiary designations on certain accounts as well. Remember the deed you signed when purchasing your home? A new deed should be prepared, by your attorney, transferring your home into your trust.
If your trust isn’t funded with your property, then it will not avoid probate. (Click HERE to view one of my previous articles on probate.) Despite the fact you have a trust at the time of your death, if the trust is empty or only partially funded, the assets outside of the trust will likely have to go through probate and seek court order before being distributed under the instructions and to the beneficiaries of your trust. If you have not funded your trust, or if you have acquired new assets and are not sure whether or not they should be funded to your trust, consult with your attorney or financial advisor for assistance with making a transfer.
Christine Ellingsen is a Northern California native now practicing law as an estate planning attorney in Carmel Valley San Diego at the Barger Law Group, APC. She spent a year in New York working in the business sector before moving to Southern California to attend law school at the University of San Diego. She is happy to have started her law career in San Diego and to now call Encinitas home, where she keeps busy between exploring Coastal North County and training her new puppy.