The #1 Mistake People Make With Trusts
Trusts are wonderful tools for financial planning and estate planning. There are many, many kinds of trusts, each with its own purpose, pros, and cons. Trusts may be used to, among other things, avoid certain taxes, avoid probate, leave specific assets to an individual or organization, or pay for life insurance.
However, it doesn’t matter what kind of trust it is when it comes to the biggest mistake we see people make with trusts. That mistake: not putting anything into the trust.
The Basics Of Trusts
This can happen when people don’t understand what a trust fundamentally is.
A “trust” is an arrangement between three parties where the “trustor” (also called a “trustmaker,” “grantee,” or “settlor”) gives ownership of certain assets to a “trustee” for the benefit of a “beneficiary.” (Note that there may be more than one trustee and/or more than one beneficiary, according to the terms of the trust.)
The key point here is that the trustor gives up ownership of assets that go into the trust. This does not happen automatically upon signing the documents that create trust. The trustor must do it separately. Ideally, the estate planning attorney who draws up the trust will provide explicit instructions on what to do next and how to transfer assets, but that doesn’t always happen.
To transfer assets into the trust, the trustor signs over the deed of their house, title of their car, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and any other selected assets to the trust. Which assets go in the trust depend on what the objective of the trust is. If the purpose is to avoid probate, then everything should go in the trust. If the purpose is to provide some money for the grandchildren over several years, for example, a selection of securities might be enough.
What Can Go Wrong
If someone does make this mistake, and fails to transfer ownership of assets from themselves to the trust they created, it can and likely will cause unintended consequences.
Imagine an adult child whose father said he had created a trust in order to avoid probate. Upon the father’s death, the child discovers that the trust was never funded. Everything is still owned in the father’s name at the time of his passing. Now the estate will pass through probate and, depending on the size of the estate, may be subject to estate taxes that could have been avoided. This is just one example, but there are many other ways an unfunded trust can cause unexpected problems.
Avoid This Mistake and Others With Guidance From Experienced Attorneys
Trusts are complex. For help creating trusts and understanding how they fit into your overall estate plan, call the Law Office of Gem McDowell. Gem is an estate planning and business attorney with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and families plan for the future. Contact Gem and his associated Lauren Turowetz at the Mt. Pleasant office at (843) 284-1021 or use this contact form to get in touch and schedule a consultation today.