A living trust is a trust that you and your spouse create to hold title your home -- and perhaps other assets as well. A key feature is that the two of you retain control over how the assets are used. You can add assets to the trust, remove assets, change the trust terms, and even close the trust. Typically, you and your spouse will be the trustees. After you've both died, a successor trustee that you've named will distribute the assets to the beneficiaries you've designated. You can also direct the successor trustee to hold on to the trust assets and use them for the benefit of your children or other beneficiaries.
What are advantages of a living trust?
The big advantage is that it avoids or minimizes the need to have your estate probated after you and your spouse have died. Property that you put in the trust won't need to be probated. Probate can entail expense, delay, and procedural hassles. You'll be doing your family a big favor if you keep your home and other assets out of probate.
Is there a downside?
A small one. Setting up a living trust -- and transferring assets to it -- means you'll have to deal with some paperwork now, and pay some legal fees. But the effort and expense is usually outweighed by your knowledge that your property will be transferred quickly and easily to your beneficiaries when you and your spouse are gone.
How do I transfer property to the trust?
You'll use a deed to transfer your home to the trust. If you have investment and bank accounts, you can sign forms making the trust the owner of the accounts. Or, if you prefer, you can sign different forms that will automatically transfer these assets to the trust when you and your spouse have died. Either method will keep these assets out of probate.
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