Those who put a house into a trust may find several benefits.
Most people find their home is the largest single asset they own.
Whether in Overland Park or other parts of Johnson County, real estate prices have increased significantly over the past three years.
Because houses are expensive investments, there is greater urgency in protecting them.
People do not fork out money to insure or guard their garden hose or trash bin.
With homes and autos, the risks are too great not to give them special attention in maintenance, insurance, security, and estate planning.
Although homes can be transferred to heirs in various ways, each has pros and cons.
One option is to put a house into a trust.
Perhaps you are wondering, “What is a trust, and why is it important?”
A trust is a legal entity.
Singles create one trust, married couples can create one joint trust together, or spouses can create a separate one.
A trust creator is known as the trustmaker (also known as the settlor, grantor, or trustor).
The trustmaker typically retitles all or a portion of their assets to the trust or arranges for the trust to be the postmortem designated beneficiary.
Think life insurance and even retirement funds.
One particular benefit of trusts is their ability to bypass probate.
Although the purpose of probate is not to make life miserable for surviving loved ones, it can take a long time and lead to unnecessary legal bills.
In contrast, trust documents outline who serves as the trustee for the trust and what stipulations and guidelines are placed on the management and distribution of these trust assets.
What role does the trustee have?
The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets and making distributions according to the terms of the trust documents.
For revocable living trusts, the trustmaker can serve as a trustee.
For irrevocable living trusts, the trustmaker typically does not serve as a trustee and must relinquish all control of the assets used to fund the trust.
If you put a house into a trust, you may no longer have authority over this property, depending on the type of trust used.
What are the benefits of putting a home into a trust?
Avoiding the Cost and Time of Probate
As previously mentioned, probate can be a long process.
This is especially true when information is disorganized, the estate is complex, or family dynamics are tense.
When probate is extended, it costs the estate more money.
As a result, your heirs will receive less than intended.
Probate can also leave the property in limbo.
During probate proceedings, your heirs cannot sell or take ownership of the property.
During this time, maintenance costs, taxes, and other bills will still need to be paid.
In addition to expenses, extended probate can leave the property vulnerable to property scammers and thieves.
While any trust will create a conduit for assets held by the trust to avoid probate, irrevocable trusts can provide greater protection from possible creditors and may reduce estate taxes.
Keeping the Transfer of the Home Private
Despite the rise in reality television and social media platforms, some people still value privacy.
Privacy is not something afforded by probate.
Once a last will and testament has been submitted to and verified by the probate court, it becomes a public record.
This means anyone could find out the details of your property transfer.
For families fraught with competition and bitterness, making private transfers can prevent drawn-out estate battles.
You can ensure a private transfer when you put a house into a trust.
Making the Process Simpler for Your Executor
The executor is the individual designated by the last will to administer an estate through probate.
Having a last will does not restrict you from using a trust in your estate planning.
Many estate plans include both working together.
Even with a last will, you can reduce the stress on your executor if you put a house into a trust.
Real estate can be one of the more complicated assets to settle and distribute through probate, especially if you own property in multiple states.
Because real estate is governed by the probate court where it is located, people who own property in Kansas and Missouri could be subject to two probate proceedings despite the homes being located mere miles from each other.
If you have property in multiple states, complicated family dynamics, or creditor concerns, you may want to discuss the use of a trust with an experienced estate planning attorney.
While creating a trust is not something you can do on your own, you should be involved in the process.
Common steps an experienced estate planning attorney will ask you to complete include making a list of possible trustees and beneficiaries with their contact information, funding the trust, and regularly reviewing and updating your trust.
How does one fund a trust?
Funding a trust involves retitling assets owned by you to the trust.
When retitling a deed to put a house into a trust, you must draw up a new property deed naming the trust as the owner, sign it in the presence of a notary public, and then record the new property deed with the local register of deeds office.
In Johnson County, that office would be The Register of Deeds under the Treasury, Taxation, and Vehicles division.
How does an estate planning attorney help you put a house into a trust?
An experienced estate planning attorney is responsible for setting up the trust documents to align with state and federal laws and your personal wishes.
Working with a professional allows you to draw upon their knowledge to create a trust suitable for your needs.
An experienced estate planning attorney can even help advise you on whether a revocable or irrevocable trust would better serve you.
You are likely wondering whether a revocable or irrevocable trust is best for you.
The revocable trust provides greater flexibility.
You can alter or revoke it in the future by changing the terms of the trust or the beneficiaries.
If serving as the trustee during your lifetime is important, a revocable trust clearly allows this option.
After the trustmaker dies, the revocable trust becomes irrevocable, meaning no further changes can be made.
With an irrevocable trust, alterations and termination are challenging or impossible as soon as it has been created and signed.
Once an asset is used to fund the trust, the asset is outside of the ownership and estate of the trustmaker.
If estate taxes and creditors are a concern, irrevocable trusts provide greater protection.
What does all of this mean for titling a home to a trust?
While choosing to put a house into a trust can be a strategic estate planning move to avoid probate, asset protection is only guaranteed with an irrevocable trust.
If you choose to create a trust, you should not do so alone.
Estate planning is a significant investment with high stakes.
Before committing to an attorney, take time to read testimonials and reviews.
Do your research.
Ask around and confirm what you are told by vetting each attorney candidate online.
After all, it is hard to hide on the internet.
You can find an experienced Kansas City or Overland Park estate planning attorney online by reading reviews and ratings on Google or Avvo.
This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., and the reader.