It happens all the time: People go to the trouble of setting up a trust, hoping to avoid the time and expense of a probate—but they either neglect to move all their assets into the trust, or they buy new assets and forget to take title in the name of the trust. Why is this a problem? If your assets are not in the trust, then the trust does not govern what happens to them at your death. Instead, they will be governed by your last will and testament, or by intestate succession if you don’t have a will, or your will cannot be located.
Depending on the value of the assets omitted from the trust, it may be necessary to open a probate proceeding with the court in order to get the assets to the intended beneficiaries. This involves spending time and money that could have been avoided if all assets had been titled in the trust.
Most estate planning attorneys have their clients execute a will “pouring over” any such assets into the trust—in other words, the trust is made the beneficiary of the will. In this case, the assets you left out of the trust will eventually get back into the trust, but only after an appropriate court proceeding. However, if your will cannot be found, or is invalid for some reason, the assets will go to your heirs according to the law, who may or may not be the beneficiaries of your trust.
What’s the best way to ensure your assets are properly titled in your trust? When you first set up a trust, make sure that the trust includes a schedule of assets intended to be transferred into the trust, and make sure that all of your assets are on that schedule. Next, you need to do some legwork: all real property should be transferred into the trust by means of a signed and recorded deed; and all titled personal property (cars, bank and brokerage accounts, etc.) should be transferred as well. Any time you purchase a new asset, make sure you take title in the name of the trust. If you refinance an asset, make sure the asset does not get bumped out of the trust in the process, and take steps to transfer it back in if this occurs. Finally, periodically review your assets to make sure they are titled in the name of the trust.
If you need assistance with this issue, you should contact a qualified Nevada estate planning and probate attorney.