Many people are happy to share that they have a revocable living trust
as part of their estate plan. In a lot of cases, they are happy to have
the revocable living trust because it avoids probate. Probate isn’t
bad in all situations, but if one of the reasons you have a revocable
living trust is to avoid probate, you can’t accomplish your goal
of avoiding probate if you don’t put anything in the trust.
A revocable living trust is like a bucket. When you complete your estate
plan, you have a bucket but it is empty. You have to take the next step
and actually change the ownership of whatever you want to put in the trust
so that the trust owns the asset instead of you personally. If the trust
owns it, then it is in the bucket. If the trust doesn’t own it,
then it is not in the bucket. You can tell if the trust owns it by looking
for the words “Trustee” after your name on the ownership papers
for each of your assets.
It is equally important to have your assets in your bucket for ease of
administration while you are still alive, but no longer able to legally
make your own decisions. In that case, the successor trustee named in
your trust (chosen by you) steps in and makes decisions about everything
that is in the bucket for you.
If your assets are not in your trust, then your successor trustee has no
ability to step into your shoes. For items outside of your trust bucket
you have to rely on your agent under your durable power of attorney. If
you have not appointed an agent, then you have to rely on the guardian
that the guardianship court chooses for you.
So, don’t carry around an empty bucket. Take the necessary steps
to actually put assets into the bucket.