Varnum BlogsToggle Nav
Properly Funding Your Trust - One More Reason to Call Your Estate Planning Attorney
You can spend the time and money to create a trust that says everything you want it to say and that distributes all your assets in the way you want them distributed, but if you do not properly transfer title of those assets to the trust, you still may not avoid probate. If you have created your own estate plan using a "kit", it is likely that this kit has not completely addressed this important issue (and I would direct you skip the rest and to read only the last line of this blog). There are certain requirements to have a valid and properly functioning trust; one of which is that there is property held by the trust, which requires trust "funding". This means that you are putting your assets (whatever they may be - different assets have different rules) into the name of the trust, so that when you die those assets are subject to the terms of that trust – in other words, your assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries of your choice without probate court intervention. To ensure that you have properly funded your trust, there are certain steps you should take. Start by getting a copy of your beneficiary designation forms for your life insurance policies, IRAs, and other retirement accounts. This will not only ensure you have a beneficiary named, but will also allow you to name your trust as the primary or contingent beneficiary, as appropriate. Next, call an estate planning attorney and set up a time to meet and discuss further. Different types of assets and different estate plans require different beneficiary designations. To make this entire process easier on you and ensure that it is done properly and efficiently, contact an attorney from the beginning.
(Editor's Note: Attorney Jessica DesNoyers authored this post while working in Varnum's Grand Haven office. Jessica is currently with another firm.)