Do I Have to Put All My Assets in My Trust?

The primary purposes of a Living Trust are to protect your assets from court, taxes, and young or foolish heirs. Trusts can protect the inheritances of problem children and the disabled and also protect their inheritances from lawsuits and creditors.  Trusts can eliminate capital gains taxes, family feuds, and public spectacles.  But to accomplish this, your trust must own your assets.

You may be tempted to leave some of your assets out of your trust. Maybe you’ve secretly been hoarding a bank account for a favorite relative, or think that little condo in Hawaii that no one knows about should stay with its current occupant. Or, maybe you’ve just forgotten to include something, no big deal, right? Wrong!

Trust me, once you die, there are no secrets.  Uncle Sam or a meticulous family member will find all of your “secret” assets, subjecting them to lengthy and expensive court battles. It’s best to put them all in your trust, list them as trust assets, then clearly state who gets them on your death.

Real Estate

Nothing will change by adding your real estate holdings to your trust.  The title will transfer from your name to your trust’s name; with you are trustee.  As you are the owner of the trust, it’s still your property and you still have complete control.  Because a normal living trust is revocable, transferring real estate to your trust should not disturb your current mortgage or property taxes.

Property without a Title

Personal belongings like your coin collection, sports memorabilia, jewelry, electronics and art should also become part of your trust so that you can leave binding directions on how they should be allocated. Placing them in the trust ensures your wishes will be unequivocally carried out. This is done by simply assigning these items to the trust, normally as part of your trust asset schedule. A trust should always have a current, signed and dated, asset schedule!

Bank and Brokerage Account

The owner of all bank and brokerage accounts should be your Trust if you want to ensure that the funds will be available, upon your incapacity or death, to cover your expenses, then distributed per your wishes.

Items You May or Must Leave Out of Your Trust

Automobiles

In most states, automobiles are exempt from probate and can easily be transferred upon your death, so it’s best to leave title in your name(s) unless they are very valuable and substantially increase the value of your estate.

Retirement Accounts

For tax purposes, you should normally always name your spouse, then competent adult heirs, as beneficiary of tax deferred accounts, to avoid having these accounts taxed, upon your death. Normally a trust will only be a beneficiary of you have age restricted or handicapped heirs.  Your attorney and financial advisor will assist you with designating the proper IRA beneficiaries.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is normally not owned by a revocable living trust, but should almost always name the trust as the primary beneficiary.  Annuities often follow the same rule, but are more complicated, and should be discussed with your financial advisor before naming beneficiaries.

Assets You Don’t Own

It’s not uncommon for people to make gifts of assets they don’t own, naming them as gifts in their trust, because they feel that they morally have a right to the asset.  This is usually not recommended.

If you have further questions  or need help with your Trust, contact us for a consultation today at 925-757-4605 or email us.

6 Easy Tips for Protecting Your Finances in Your Golden Years

Protecting your finances is critical to ensuring your retirement remains as stress free and comfortable as possible. Maintaining your desired lifestyle while living on a fixed income, and managing medical expenses can be challenging. With this in mind we have 7 tips that can help you protect your finances after retirement:

1) Decide if you need help from an expert

Consider seeking help from a financial planner. Financial planners are trained to deal with many personal financial concerns, they can help you set financial goals and priorities, then recommend the steps to take in order to meet them. senior finance

You may, however, get to a point where you or your family feel you can no longer manage your on your own. Some folks turn to a trusted family member or loved one for the help they need. If this is the case, I strongly encourage you to speak to an attorney who can help you decide if you should obtain a legal document known as a power of attorney (POA). A POA would allow you to designate one or more people to make decisions with as much of your financial or personal life as you choose.

2)Research any financial advisors or attorneys before you hire them

It’s wise to research any expert before hiring them.  FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Ron Jauregui cautioned that “before you follow the advice of a supposed ‘expert’ who claims to have special credentials for advising seniors, research what that title may or may not mean and the advisor’s background.” When researching an attorney you can use tools such as www.Avvo.com where attorneys are rated by past clientele as well as other professionals. Yelp is also a great place to look for reviews. And don’t forget to ask friends who they use. Sometimes the best professionals come from referrals from people we trust.

3) Know the signs of senior fraud

Financial fraud is any crime that targets your money through bank accounts, credit cards, or investment accounts. It can be likened to the modern-day equivalent of a pickpocket! Many con artists will ask for personal or financial information over the phone or email. BEWARE!   Your bank or financial institution will never call or email you asking for personal information or details about your bank accounts, passwords, credit cards, social security number, etc. Be cautious and always err on the side of caution. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you ever have doubts call your financial institution directly (using the number you have on record or on their website- NOT the number provided by the caller or emailer) and ask if they’ve contacted you.

4) Use credit cards wisely

Although retirees should avoid taking on more debt, when used wisely, credit cards can be very helpful. Some of them offer cash back as well as fraud and purchase protection. However, before making purchases using your credit card, it’s important to consider the ability to pay your balance in full when the statement arrives to avoid paying for the costly interest.

5) Plan for your future and your family’s future – what if you become incapacitated.

The first step in planning for incapacity is to think about the issues that may arise. How do you want your assets managed? What medical treatment would you allow or not allow? Whom do you trust to make decisions for you? Meet with your family to discuss these and/or document your decisions. You can also seek help from an attorney to have the proper documentation in order to assure your wishes are honored.

6) Organize all your important paperwork and keep it someplace safe

>Make sure all your important documents are organized and placed in a safe location. Besides having a hard copy of all of your documents you may think about making a digital copy by scanning all your documents and placing them on a cd-rom or thumb drive. Either way, it will set your mind at ease knowing that everything is filed, in a specific location, and kept safe for the future.