I don't remember if I have put items in my trust and am in the process once again of putting my estate in order.
I assume you mean a revocable living trust for estate planning purposes. There are several different types of property and different methods of "funding" your trust, or coordinating your assets with your trust based plan.
Real estate would have had to be deeded. Check the public records and see if your tax statements are addressed to you as trustee. Same with mortgages owed to you. There should have been an assignment to the trust and it should have been recorded.
I don't know what the practice is in your state about vehicles, but to transfer it you would have had to change the title.
Financial accounts would have statements made in the name of the trust or you as trustee. Call your contacts at the financial institutions if you cannot tell. Often we wait with CDs to make sure we do not trigger a penalty. This is only for non-qualified accounts. Also, make sure you know why you set up any accounts as jointly owned or POD - unintentionally doing this can undermine your plan.
Generally with qualified accounts (non-Roth IRAs, SEPs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, certain other defined contribution plans, certain annuities) we do not recommend you designate the trust as beneficiary because that accelerates the income taxation of them into the first five years following your death. Verify the beneficiary designations are to individuals so they can continue the tax deferral. There are exceptions for spendthrift or special needs beneficiaries where you do designate a trust as beneficiary, but those trusts have very special provisions to make them "qualified beneficiaries" under the IRC.
Assign notes that others owe you money on in writing. Make sure any business interests are transferred in accordance with state law. (e.g., stock certificates or LLC member interest certificates in name of trust).
There are other unusual assets that require special treatment (e.g., timeshares), and some things you just cannot transfer (e.g., real estate in countries where trusts are not recognized legal entities). Finally, in WA we usually have trust clients execute a single assignment document transferring all tangible personal property to the trust whether you own it now or acquire it later. You might do something similar if you run a business as a sole proprietor.
In general, it is a good idea to review and confirm the proper funding of your revocable trust every few years. Otherwise it might not function as intended and, if there are certain assets or enough value left outside the trust and not in non-probate form, your personal representative could end up having to open a probate to transfer things into the trust under the pour-over will.
Mr. Sullivan has provided an excellent answer to your question. The only thing I would add is that it is a good idea to review your trust "funding" annually so things don't get completely out of control. When you're getting your account statements together for taxes, you can easily check the way the 1098 forms are worded ("titled") - if you receive dividend statements or interest statements that don't mention your trust (or don't indicate that you are the trustee), it's a big clue that you need to double check the title on that particular account.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
If your question is specifically whether you have already put assets into your trust, then the simplest answer is to first inventory your assets and then research how those assets are titled. See below about how to get title researched.
Many people treat a trust like a will. They believe that by properly signing a trust they have done all that they need to do. If it were a will, then that would be all that you needed to do.
If trusts were like wills, then your assets would be disposed of according to the instructions in your trust --- after a probate estate is opened and your trust is "admitted to probate." However, trusts are not like wills. When trusts work as they are designed, your assets are disposed of according to the instructions in the trust --- without opening a probate estate.
Here is the key point to avoiding probate. Titling the assets into the Trust while you are alive and able to do it. The only assets that will be disposed of according to your trust instructions are the ones that are titled into your trust now, or that are payable to your trust at your death.
So you have to do two things to research what assets are in your trust. First, you need to find the last title, deed, certificate, etc. to every asset that you have in your name. Notice that I said LAST title, deed, stock certificate, bond, etc. I cannot count the number of times on one hand that a new client has brought me a deed to their home and it is NOT the last deed but rather it is the first deed they could find in that notorious box in the basement.
The last deed is the one you need. Assets can be re-titled. The last transaction is the one that counts!
A change in a title on a car for example will be recorded at the Secretary of State. A change in title on a stock certificate will be recorded on the books of the corporation. And so forth.
If you are a diligent soul, then you recorded each and every deed that you have signed at the county's Register of Deeds.
Which county? The county where the property is located. If you have more than one piece of property, you may need to go to more than one county's Register of Deeds. You will ask for a search for the last deed recorded for the property and obtain a copy of the last deed recorded for a very nominal fee.
If the last deed is the deed that you signed fifteen years ago when you did your estate plan, then it will be to the Trustee of your Trust. That means that your property has been deeded into your trust.
Second thing you need to do: Contact the institutions for all accounts or certificates of deposit that you own. Ask how the account or CD is titled and also ask if there is a beneficiary designation on that account or CD. If the account is titled to Ms. Your Name, Trustee of the Trust dated 1/1/1111 or something similar, then the account is in the Trust. Or, if there is a beneficiary designation, and it is to something similar, then the account is going to the Trust at your death.
These are just some of the generic steps that you can take. A local attorney's office can do much for you than I can over the internet. But you can save yourself a lot of grief and attorney's fees by preparing a thorough inventory of your assets (on paper) before you ask for the attorney's help in researching which assets are in your trust.
Dear Confused Trustor,
What a great question. Many people have trusts, but unfortunately there's nothing inside many of them. Quite often the lawyer leaves this very difficult, time consuming responsibility up to the client, but shortly after leaving the office the client puts the papers away and never gets anything transferred into the trust name. In my firm I take on that responsiblity. To see if your trust has assets designated to the trust name the first stop is your mail. When you look at your bank and brokerage statements, is the name at the top yours or does it reference your trust name? If your trust name is on the statement then congratulations that asset is part of your trust. If it's not then you want to make sure that those accounts are assigned to your trust name. However, you must be very careful if your married and you are working with two trusts, because this needs to be done right or the tax consequences can be terrible. You also want to check the deeds to your real estate and see if the trust is named. Almost every asset with paperwork needs to be in the trust name. That includes checking accounts, savings accounts, stocks, brokerage accounts, savings bonds, vehicles, land and corporate interests. IRA, 401ks, 403bs, Annuities and some life insurance shouldn't be owned by the trust, but often the trust should be named as a beneficiary. This is complicated stuff and again, one wrong move can have devastating consequences. Also, make sure that all future assets are purchased in the trust name. At death if everything is in the trust you will avoid probate. Please sit down with your attorney again and review what steps need to be taken, before proceeding on your own. Thank you again for asking a question which will benefit so many people.
Very truly yours,
Law Offices of Cheryl David
5606 W. Friendly Avenue
Greensboro, NC 27410
The advice given above is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney client relationship.
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