Funding Your Family Trust

What it Means to “Fund” a Revocable Trust

After an individual (the “grantor” also known as the “settlor” or “trustor”) creates a revocable family trust, the next step is to implement the trust by “funding” it. “Funding” the revocable trust simply means transferring ownership of assets owned by the grantor as an individual to the trustee of the revocable trust.

Why a Revocable Trust Should Be Funded

In most instances, a grantor should transfer all assets in his or her own name to the trust to take advantage of the benefits of a revocable trust. Important benefits of a revocable trust include:

  • Ease of management of assets during disability.
  • Probate of Avoidance.
  • Flexibility in disposing of non-probate assets.

Many clients believe that if they simply set up a revocable trust, all of the above benefits will follow automatically. Clients often forget, however, that only what is held in the name of the revocable trust avoids probate and ancillary probate at death and formal conservatorship in the event of disability. In addition, naming a revocable trust as the beneficiary of certain non-probate assets (such as life insurance proceeds, annuities, and death benefits) will ensure that these assets pass at death in accordance with the terms of a revocable trust.

Typically, the full benefit of a revocable trust will be realized only if most of the assets have been transferred into a revocable trust during the grantor’s lifetime.

USA Today Article: How to prepare financially for being a widow/widower

Married couples face many challenges in retirement. One that is unavoidable and that consistently derails retirement plans is the loss of a spouse. Studies show that the death of a spouse often leads to an economic decline for the surviving spoues. This may stem from a loss of income, an inability to cope with the loss, or the inability of the surviving spouse to competently manage their finances. A few steps couples can take to mitigate this risk include: 1) having an open discussion about money matters, 2) cover what-if scenarios, 3) delay social security as long as is feasible, 4) check and recheck beneficiary designations, 5) gather a financial team, 6) make sure the estate plan is current, and 7) possibly relocate to a smaller home that requires less maintenance and has lowers associated costs.

See Robert Powell, How to Prepare Financially for Being a Widow/Widower, USA Today, January 19, 2018.


Dear Clients, Friends and Colleagues:

We are pleased to invite you and your guests to our 2018 Annual Estate Planning Seminar. If your clients, advisors, successor trustees or children would like to attend, please let us know.

The seminar will be at no charge. We will provide you with seminar materials and refreshments. We will make sure there is plenty of time for questions.

Email your reservation to or give our office a call to let us know which seminar you prefer to attend and the number of guests.

We look forward to seeing you.

Roberta J. Robinson & Daniel J. Wilson

Overcoming Emotional Hurdles to Setting-up your Estate Plan: Changing your Estate Plan

Many people avoid setting up their estate plan because they feel that once they sign their documents, the decisions are finalized. Although the final version of the documents will come into effect at death, you can always revise your estate plan as things change.

This is why your Trust is referred to as a “Revocable” Living Trust. The fact that it’s revocable means that at any time while you are alive and competent you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke the provisions of the trust agreement.

The decisions that need to be made as part of the estate-planning process are significant. They are numerous and emotional. “Who will care for my children when I’m gone?” “What are my end-of-life preferences?” “When do I want the plug pulled?” Often, due to indecision, a client will do nothing.

In these days when changing your estate plan could simply entail copying and replacing a name throughout the documents on the computer, the feeling of permanency in setting up your estate plan shouldn’t prevent you from getting started.

If you are considering making a change to your estate plan (Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive), we recommend speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney so that they can provide you with professional advice.

Our firm offers no-charge consultations to new clients to review their existing estate planning documents. Contact Us Today.

Did You Know?: You Can Access a Safe Deposit Box After a Death Before Probate

After a death, many people are left looking for a Will or a Trust. If people are unable to find any estate planning documents in the home, the last place to look often ends up being a Safe Deposit Box. The original Will is one of the few legal documents where an original is required.

There are some special rules under the California Probate Code which gives you access to a Safe Deposit Box to look for a Will or a Trust, if you meet certain qualifications.

Under Probate Code section 331, a person with a key may, even before starting probate, obtain access to a safety deposit box to look for a Will or a Trust. Additionally, the person may be allowed to access information regarding the disposition of the decedent’s remains.

In order to access a Safe Deposit Box of a deceased person, you must have:
1. The key to the Safe Deposit Box,
2. A death certificate; and
3. Proof of identity.

If you do not have the key to the Safe Deposit Box, but you know one exists, you will need to initiate Probate to obtain access to the Safe Deposit Box.

If are denied access to a Safe Deposit Box, you should contact an estate planning attorney to assist you with obtaining access to the Safe Deposit Box.

If you have located a Will or a Trust in a Safe Deposit Box, you are required to follow certain procedures. At that point, you should contact an attorney experienced in Probate and Trust Administration.

Inventorying the Assets in a Probate Estate

After the Executor has been appointed over the Estate of a Deceased, they have a duty to prepare and file a list of the decedent’s assets as of the date of death with the Probate Court. The list of the decedent’s assets is placed on a Court Form called an Inventory and Appraisal.

The Inventory and Appraisal will include everything owned by the decedent at the date of death, plus everything which was owing to the decedent at the time of death (such as unpaid wages, income tax refunds, etc.) The Inventory and Appraisal will be used for tax determination and will be filed with the court to indicate the value of the estate assets.

If the Decedent’s assets need to be valued or appraised, such as real estate or stock, a Probate Referee will be appointed by the court to appraise the rest of the property. The Probate Referee appraises all property in the estate, except for “cash” type items.

The Inventory and Appraisal must be filed with the Court no later than four months after the court issues Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration.

Creating Flexible Trusts in Uncertain Times

If you decide to make your trust irrevocable, it is important to determine whether you should add provisions that may enable trust modifications in changing times and circumstances.

Things that may demand modification in the future, like trust distribution age, beneficiaries, trustees, and distribution amounts, could lead to regret from not only the grantor but the beneficiaries as well. Additionally, income and estate tax laws are constantly changing, which can create unintended scenarios for those involved. Consequently, several states have enacted statutes to permit the modification of irrevocable trust with tools like decanting, moving assets to various trusts, or allowing grantors and beneficiaries to consent informally to changes.

See Atlantic Trust, Creating Flexible Trusts in Uncertain Times, Wealth Management, July 1, 2016.

Funding Your Living Trust

You’re not done when you’ve signed your trust document.

Once you’ve made a living trust, there’s one more crucial step: formally transferring assets to the trust. This is called “funding the trust”—and if you don’t do it, your trust will have no effect on how your property is transferred after your death. If your trust is not funded at death, then your assets will pass through Probate, which is very costly and time consuming.

It’s very common for people to skip the funding step altogether, or to leave out valuable assets. Many people assume, if they hired a lawyer to draft the trust document, that the lawyer will also take care of the funding. But that’s not always the case, so be sure to check with the lawyer and be clear about your responsibilities. Read More about Trust Funding at

What CPAs Should Know About Trusts

From: Accounting Today
MARCH 2, 2016

“Many estate planners recommend that clients create trusts for various reasons, but problems can arise when the trustee is a family member who has no experience regarding the responsibilities of a trustee.

In many cases the trustee selected by the creator of the trust is not capable of handling the responsibilities that are involved in administering a trust. The trustee should always engage a qualified CPA to assist in administering the trust.

The trustee is subject to a number of obligations, including maintaining adequate records, making investment decisions, reading and interpreting the provisions of the trust document, making sure the annual fiduciary income tax returns are filed in a timely manner, and making distributions in accordance with the terms of the trust.”

Continue reading the article: What CPAs Should Know About Trusts