You signed the trust documents. Your estate planning is complete, right? As Lee Corso of ESPN’s College GameDay would say, “Not so fast, my friends!” For a revocable living trust to work as intended, it must be fully funded. Otherwise, the trust is worth little more than the pieces of paper on which it is written.
Trust funding refers to the process of re-titling your assets in the name of the trust. This means drafting new deeds for your house and other real property, signing new signature cards at the bank, completing new beneficiary designation forms for retirement accounts and life insurance policies and possibly more. Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It is. However, this is a vitally important — and often overlooked — part of estate planning.
Some estate planners contend that trust funding rests solely on the client’s shoulders. Others, such as myself, believe trust funding is a responsibility shared by both client and attorney. I provide all of my clients with detailed instructions for transferring assets to their trust, and I coordinate with the client as well as their advisors, financial institutions and employers to make sure everything is in order.
Revocable living trusts offer significant benefits including probate avoidance, increased privacy, dealing with incapacity and greater flexibility for your heirs and beneficiaries. While trust funding entails a bit of extra effort, it is definitely worth your time.