Estate Law FAQ

What is the difference between a Will and a Living Trust?

A Will covers assets in the name of a person when he or she dies and these assets then go through a court process called probate. A Living Trust is a document separate from a Will, and if assets are transferred to the Trust while the creator of the Trust is alive, they do not go through probate at the person’s death.

What other ways can probate be avoided?

IRAs, retirement plans, annuities and life insurance allow a beneficiary to be designated. Bank and brokerage accounts can designate a beneficiary by words such as ‘ITF‘ (in trust for) or ‘POD‘ (payable on death). Assets held in joint tenancy pass to the surviving joint tenant(s) when one joint tenant dies.

What is the tax identification number of a revocable trust while the creator or while both creators of the trust are acting as trustee(s)?

The creator’s social security number.

Will there be a property tax re-assessment when real property is transferred to a revocable trust?

Not if a preliminary change of ownership form is filed along with the deed in which the appropriate exclusion is claimed.

What is a Pour-Over Will?

When a revocable trust is signed, a separate Will should be created that says that any assets not transferred to the trust during the creator’s life are to be given to the trust at the creator’s death.

Why should I sign a durable power of attorney for health care?

To name someone to speak for you at the hospital when you are unable to communicate. To give that person the right to consider relief of suffering in determining whether or not to withdraw life support.

Why should I add my trust to the my house’s title insurance?

When you originally bought real estate, you received a title insurance policy. This is a contract, not a deed. It has come to my attention that title insurance companies who have issued title insurance policies on real estate that you purchased individually may deny coverage if you later transferred the real estate to your revocable trust. The solution, which I strongly recommend, is for you to contact each title insurance company which you have a policy with and request a CLTA 107.9 endorsement to add your revocable trust as an additional insured. The title insurance company may charge a modest fee. But in return, you will receive peace of mind. Remember, the purpose of title insurance is to protect you in case the person who sold you the real estate had some problem with his or her title/ownership that was not discovered by the title insurance company which issued you the title policy. Problems with title typically surface when you or your successors later attempt to sell your real estate, so the time to address this issue is now.

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