When a Trust Can Be Exposed to Probate

Probate court puts unnecessary stress on your estate, your family, and other loved ones. It’s an issue we talked about recently, and the most common advice estate planning attorneys will tell you is to opt for a trust instead of just establishing a will for your estate. It’s important, however, to understand trusts can still be subject to probate in certain circumstances.

The deadline to remedy all issues and avoid probate court is when you pass away. This is an unpredictable event, so it’s important to consider all of the following while you still have time.

It’s not fully funded

The difference between a trust and a will is that a trust is funded while you’re still alive. “Funding” doesn’t mean just putting money into the trust, it also includes transferring ownership of your assets into the trust. This is the most common issue that forces trusts into probate court after people pass away.

If you die and are left with untransferred real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, or other assets intended to be executed through your trust, the probate process will be necessary. The courts will then need to process the remaining assets.

It can sound intimidating to “transfer” your assets into the trust, but while you’re still alive you will be the primary trustee. This means you maintain control over the asset until your death.

New assets aren’t included in the trust

Fully funding your trust includes transferring assets acquired after the establishment of your trust. It’s important to do this any time you make a purchase unless you have another legal document to define the transfer of the asset after your death.

One way to avoid this particular issue is to create a “pour-over” will. These can be established at the time you establish your trust and will allow any new assets to be automatically transferred into your trust when you die.

A revocable trust isn’t updated

Revocable trusts allow you to make changes should you want to remove ownership from the trust and sell or alter an asset in any way you see fit. This gives you greater flexibility and control, but there is some greater risk over the record-keeping process. If you alter an asset without working with your estate attorney and your trust documents remain unchanged, the trust will no longer be considered fully funded.

Irrevocable trusts don’t allow you to alter agreement details but provide other benefits such as protecting assets from creditors and allowing you to be eligible for certain government programs like Medicaid.

Pick the right attorney

Your estate planning attorney should be well-versed in all of the ins and outs of probate court. If you’re hoping to avoid probate or need help in probate court, choose Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio.

Experience and knowledge are present in our legal representation. Our goals are based upon the needs of our clients and we approach each matter with the utmost care and importance. Contact us today and let us get your estate plan on track.

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