Trust Funding: Real Estate and Financial Accounts

Trust Funding: Real Estate and Financial Accounts

After you have created a revocable trust, it is necessary to fund your trust with your assets. Funding a trust is the transfer of assets to the trust name. When you transfer assets to your trust, or when the trustee buys and sells various assets owned by the trust, the third parties with whom you will be dealing will need verification that your trust exists and that the trustee has the authority to act on behalf of the trust. If you prefer not to provide an entire copy of the trust agreement, as you may not want other people to be able to read the provisions of your private trust document, you may instead provide a copy of the Certificate of Trust.

The Certificate of Trust is an abbreviated version of your trust that includes the specific information about your trust that the third parties will want to see. The Certificate of Trust enables you to avoid disclosing the particulars of your estate plan by disclosing only the necessary information. You may find that you will be using your Certificate of Trust repeatedly over time as trust assets are bought and sold.

Note, however, some financial institutions may not accept the Certificate of Trust; rather, they will want to see a copy of the entire trust agreement. In this case, you can ask if they will accept only the relevant parts of the trust to transfer the asset to the trust.

Real Estate

A deed is required to convey interests in real estate to your revocable trust. In the future, should you acquire any additional real estate, you should purchase and title such real estate in the name of your revocable trust. You should obtain the assistance of an out-of-state attorney to transfer any non-Florida real estate into your revocable trust.

All non-homestead and homestead real estate can be placed in the revocable trust. Importantly, if you transfer your homestead to your revocable trust, you must reapply for the homestead tax exemption after your property has been transferred to your trust. The property appraiser’s office in the county where your homestead is located will need a copy of your trust or your Certificate of Trust to prove that you are entitled to the homestead tax exemption.

Bank, Savings and Other Financial Accounts

It is important to change the name on each bank, brokerage, and money market account that you wish to be owned by the revocable trust. Each financial institution holding an account should be contacted to change the current owner of the account to the trust. If the bank allows, you will be able to keep the same account numbers on your accounts.

The financial institution will want to see a copy of your trust or the Certificate of Trust to verify the trust exists. It is recommended that after the name change takes place, you check your account statements to ensure they reflect the name of the trust as the account owner.

If you have a safe deposit box, you may want to change the registration to your revocable trust. This can avoid a probate proceeding following death which may otherwise be required to open the box if the deceased is the only authorized name on the box.

Unmarried Florida Couples Need Estate Plans

Unmarried Florida Couples Need Estate Plans

Estate planning is important for everyone but especially so in the absence of children, who are natural heirs when a parent passes. For singles or couples without children, the absence of a plan can lead to unintended consequences and protracted litigation. A famous case is the estate of the musician Prince, who died without a will.

Individuals who utilize estate planning determine the manner in which assets are distributed and account for contingencies. For example, when a husband dies, assets generally go to his wife, but if she dies without children, the assets could go to her next spouse or extended family. Estate planning is a tool to plan for the passing of assets or managing incapacitation from injury or illness. Thinking about things ahead of time saves loved ones from stress and prevents dissipation of estate assets through taxes, legal fees and court costs.

At the core of any estate plan is a will and designated powers of attorney. Choosing the person to designate will demand consideration of both character and temperament. With married couples, the surviving spouse is typically the default, but in the absence of a marriage, long-term couples may be without recourse if they do not make an estate plan. In the case of incapacitation, the power of attorney will allow someone chosen in advance to make critical decisions instead of a parent or sibling who may not be preferred for any number of reasons. Powers of attorney generally expire upon death, so a will must be in place to fully protect everyone involved.

If an individual wishes to help loved ones after death, consulting a qualified estate planning attorney may help them understand their options. Experienced lawyers may be able to assist in planning for all possible contingencies regarding estate assets.

Frustrations of Probate Administration

Frustrations of Probate Administration

By now you may have heard people talk about the nightmare of Probating a loved one’s Estate. Hopefully, this article will help you understand some of the requirements of the Probate process as well as causes for a delay that can generally frustrate you along the way.

Understanding the Probate Administration Process

Probate is a Court monitored process to locate the assets, pay the necessary creditors, and transfer the assets to the beneficiaries. This can be done with or without a Last Will and Testament. Probate is required when the decedent owned assets titled in their individual name only (and did not list a beneficiary or payable on death designation). Assets include real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, vehicles, and more.

Appointment of Personal Representative

The first step of the Probate process is to have a Personal Representative appointed. If your loved one had a Last Will and Testament, it will name the individual they would like to Probate their Estate.

If there is no Last Will and Testament, the surviving spouse has a preference in an appointment. If there is no surviving spouse or the surviving spouse does not wish to serve, then the heir selected by a majority in interest in the heirs may be permitted to serve.

Even if an individual is named in a Last Will and Testament to serve as the Personal Representative, the individual does not have the authority to act on behalf of the Estate until after the Court officially appoints the individual as the Personal Representative. Along with the Last Will and Testament, paperwork will need to be submitted to the Court identifying the Personal Representative, the Decedent, and the beneficiaries before the Judge will approve the individual to act as Personal Representative.

Creditor Period

Once the Personal Representative has been appointed, this triggers the second step of the Probate process. This is commonly called the Creditor Period and will last for 3 months. During this period a Notice is published in the local newspaper which will allow any creditor to file a claim against the Estate.

All known creditors will be notified during this period as well. Once the 3 month period has expired, almost all creditor claims are barred as being untimely. During this period, the Personal Representative usually works to gather the assets.

Notice of Administration Period

Another part of the second step of the Probate process involves the Notice of Administration. This is a document that is served on all interested parties in an Estate. Interested parties can include beneficiaries of the Estate, children that were disinherited, a surviving spouse that was not mentioned in the Last Will and Testament, and any other party the Court deems as interested.

This period also runs for 3 months and allows individuals to object to any part of the Probate process. For example, if a surviving spouse was not mentioned in the Last Will and Testament, the spouse can file what is called an Elective Share Action against the Estate. Florida Statutes state what a surviving spouse is entitled to as part of an Elective Share. This event will also likely slow things down and delay the Probate process.

Homestead Property

Once the Creditor Period has expired, we can proceed with transferring the Homestead Property to the beneficiaries of the Estate. The Court generally will not permit the Homestead property to be transferred until after the Creditor Period as any creditor that may file a claim has an interest in the property and is required to be informed of the transfer. Even though the property is protected from most creditor claims, pursuant to Florida Statutes, creditors have a right to information regarding the transfer. This process can take about a month or longer depending on the Court scheduling as well as any other filings such as the Elective Share.

Distribution of Estate

Once the Homestead Property, if applicable, has been transferred, we can begin the process of preparing the Estate for distribution. This is where the assets will be divided between the beneficiaries pursuant to the Last Will and Testament or to the rightful beneficiaries pursuant to the Florida Statutes if there is no Last Will and Testament. During this time, it will be determined if an Accounting of the Estate will be required.

If so, this process can be lengthy as the Accounting will need to account for all transactions that occurred, payments that were made, and money that was received by the Estate after the passing of the loved one. It is possible to proceed without the Accounting if all beneficiaries are in agreement.

Discharging the Personal Representative

Once the distributions have been made and all assets of the Estate have been transferred, we can then petition the Court and ask that the Personal Representative be released from their duties and the case be closed. At this time, the Judge will do a final lookback of the case and may request additional documentation or amendments to previously filed documents.

As you can see from the above steps, Probate Administration is generally viewed as a lengthy process. We often quote that the entire process can take 9 months to a year from opening the Probate until the Personal Representative is released and the Estate closed. However, the length of each case varies and depends on many factors including the number of assets, the number of beneficiaries, the relationship between the beneficiaries, and the number of creditors.

If you would like to know how Probate can be avoided, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.