How do I get my assets into my trust?

The process of getting certain types of assets into trust title with the trust as owner is called “trust funding”. For real estate, that means that a Trust Transfer Deed or a Quitclaim Deed is prepared, signed and recorded with the County Recorder’s Office in the County where the real estate is located listing the trust as the Grantee (along with a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report-critical to avoid reassessment and transfer taxes). For bank and brokerage accounts, the financial institution typically has a title transfer form that you fill out listing the trust as the owner and yourself and your spouse as the trustees of the trust. For corporate stock and LLC membership interests, the stock certificate or LLC membership certificate needs to be updated to reflect the trust as the new owner. Changing the interest ownership on the rolls of the corporation or LLC is also advised.

Retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, etc. NEVER get titled in the name of a revocable trust (or any other type of trust for that matter). Instead, these assets are governed by a beneficiary designation form. Retirement accounts must be owned by an individual and cannot be owned by a trust. Careful planning is required with these types of assets because they often represent the largest asset in a person’s estate. Life insurance in most cases should list our trust as the primary beneficiary (there are exceptions to this rule but you should consult with your attorney before determining how to fill out the beneficiary form on your life insurance policies). One of the major advantages to listing your trust as the primary beneficiary on your life insurance is to ensure that the life insurance proceeds make it down to your children without court interference. We can asset protect the assets in the trust and life insurance directed to the trust at death in continuing trusts for our children or other beneficiaries. However, in larger estates, it’s important to note that the use of an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) may be recommended to provide for the payment of an estate tax liability or provide liquidity where there are assets that you do not want to be fire sold. Cars, RVs and other vehicles can be transferred to trust title through the DMV (they have their own forms for transfer). If you are a member of AAA, the process can be made a lot easier.