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Why You Should Put Your House in a Trust

December 1, 2023
Andrew Sigerson
Putting a home into a trust has several benefits, from avoiding the lengthy probate process to providing potential tax advantages. This article discusses some of the intricacies of trusts and the importance of consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney. What Is a Trust and Why Is It Important? A trust is a legal arrangement where one person (the grantor) transfers ownership of their assets, like a house, to a trustee. The trustee holds and manages these assets on behalf of the named beneficiaries. One main benefit of putting property in a trust is to avoid probate, which can be…

Putting a home into a trust has several benefits, from avoiding the lengthy probate process to providing potential tax advantages. This article discusses some of the intricacies of trusts and the importance of consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney.

What Is a Trust and Why Is It Important?

A trust is a legal arrangement where one person (the grantor) transfers ownership of their assets, like a house, to a trustee. The trustee holds and manages these assets on behalf of the named beneficiaries. One main benefit of putting property in a trust is to avoid probate, which can be a time-consuming and expensive legal process. The trust allows assets to be transferred to beneficiaries without the intervention of a probate court.

What Role Does the Trustee Have?

With a revocable living trust, you, as the original homeowner, will usually name yourself as the trustee, so you have control of the trust and the property. However, the original owner can name someone else as the trustee. This can be helpful in case the original owner dies and the real estate is distributed to the grantor’s beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust agreement. The trustee manages the property for the benefit of the grantor and any named beneficiaries of the grantor’s estate.

Benefits of Putting Your Home in a Trust

Avoiding the Cost and Time of Probate

By transferring ownership of your home into a trust, you can ensure that it passes directly to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death without the need to go through probate. Probate costs are borne by the estate and, thus, the beneficiaries. Probate also takes time, and while probate is in process, homes need maintenance, taxes need to be paid and costs add up. If the house is sitting empty, it can become a target for thieves and property scammers. If the trust is an irrevocable trust, it can also help protect assets from potential creditors and may even provide estate tax advantages.

Keeping the Transfer of the Home Private

If the house goes through probate, the transfer of property becomes part of the court and public record, and anyone will be able to see who inherited the home. When family dynamics are complicated, this can create long-lasting family battles.

Making the Process Simpler for Your Executor

If you have multiple real properties or homes in different states, the properties would be subject to the probate process in the state where located. Thus, if you have a vacation home in Arizona but live in Michigan, your executor will have to navigate probate in both states.

Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which One Is Right for You?

There are primarily two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust, often called a revocable living trust or a living trust, can be altered or revoked entirely by the grantor while they're alive. It allows homeowners the flexibility to make changes to the trust terms or named beneficiaries. A revocable trust lets a grantor control the property and make changes to the trust during their lifetime. The grantor retains the right to modify or dissolve the trust. The grantor can act as a trustee, manage the property, or appoint someone else. Upon the grantor's death, the revocable trust becomes irrevocable, meaning no further changes can be made.

On the other hand, an irrevocable trust, once established, cannot be easily altered or terminated. Assets in an irrevocable trust are considered outside of the grantor's estate, providing protection against creditors and potential tax advantages.

Working with an Estate Planning Attorney to Set Up Your Trust

Creating a trust starts when you engage an experienced estate planning attorney to help you decide the type of trust that best suits your needs for protecting your real and other property. It is essential to work closely with your attorney to complete each step so the home ownership is properly transferred to the trust.

  • Make a list of possible beneficiaries and trustees who you will include in the trust and gather their contact information.
  • Work with the estate planning attorney to transfer the title of your property to the trust. This involves drawing up a new property deed that names the trust as the property owner and getting it notarized in front of a notary public.
  • Record the deed and title to the property with the office that holds local property records.
  • Regularly review and update the trust, especially after major life events, to ensure that it remains aligned with your wishes.

The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney in Putting Your Home in a Trust

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential when setting up a trust. They can provide guidance on the most suitable type of trust for your situation and ensure that all legal formalities are correctly observed. An attorney can help draft the trust document, ensuring that it aligns with state laws, and provide advice on transferring assets into the trust. Moreover, they can act as a valuable resource for questions or concerns, ensuring that the trust serves its intended purpose effectively.

In Conclusion

Putting your house into a trust is a strategic move for estate planning and avoiding probate. Furthermore, if the trust is irrevocable, it may help protect assets from potential creditors and provide estate tax advantages. Whether you opt for a revocable or irrevocable trust, it's imperative to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your assets, wishes and beneficiaries are well-protected. Remember, a well-structured trust is more than just a legal document; it's a legacy planning tool.

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