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  • Writer's pictureWalter Cifuentes

Trust Implementation Checklist

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

If you have successfully worked with an estate planning attorney to create a living trust, then congratulations! You have completed a complex task that many avoid. Unfortunately, your job is not done when you have a fancy trust binder sitting on your shelf. The trust must also be funded, and that involves retitling your assets, contacting the banks and brokers to change the ownership of your assets into the name of the trust. Since the whole process can be confusing, we have created the following trust implementation checklist to help guide you:

1) Financial accounts

Financial accounts currently held in the name of yourself, your spouse, or jointly should generally be renamed or “converted” into a trust account. This category does not include IRA’s or other retirement accounts, which we will discuss later. We do recommend changing the title of your brokerage accounts, checking and savings accounts. This step is essential to avoiding probate and ensuring the trust governs the assets.

Please be aware, that even though the assets have been retitled into the trust, you, as trustee, will still have full control and may use the funds in the accounts.

2) IRA’s, 401k’s, Pensions, and other retirement accounts

IRA’s, 401k’s, Pensions and other retirement accounts are different because they must be owned by an individual and cannot be placed in a trust while the owner is still living. However, IRA’s, 401k’s and Pensions have a powerful alternative. You may name beneficiaries for the IRA so that the funds will pass to the named individuals. This process avoids probate and is fast and easy. You may also name the trust as the beneficiary of the IRA. If you have minor children, or if your trust has special provisions, such as a special needs trust, then naming the trust may be preferable. Absent these situations, we prefer to name the individuals as the beneficiary rather than the trust. You may also have a primary and contingent beneficiary, a beneficiary who will inherit the funds if your primary beneficiary is already deceased. If you are not sure, it is a good idea to ask your estate planning attorney to clarify how these accounts should be handled, and whether the trust should be named as a beneficiary for the IRA in your specific situation.

3) Your Home

The next thing that should be put into the trust is the Home and/or mortgage. Just by stating the home is in the trust is not enough. You must file a grant deed and submit to the recorder’s office. We recommend going back to your Estate Attorney to ensure this is done correctly due to execution of this form is extremely important.

4) Do I need everything else in my trust?

Usually, a good estate planning attorney will create a “pour over will” that will “pour” any assets outside of the trust into the trust upon your death. The pour over is designed to clearly give your trustee authority over other assets such as cars, furniture, and personal effects. Here is a list of assets that do not need to be retitled:

a. Life insurance where the surviving spouse is designated.

b. Any types of vehicles

c. Furniture

d. Personal effects

Transferring assets to the trust can be a very daunting task., but when done correctly, it can give a peace of mind in the long run. If you have any questions, please give us a call and we are ready to help.


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