This question usually gets asked by the family after a loved one has died and they are told they have to go through probate. How did this happen?
Yes, one of the benefits of a revocable trust is avoiding probate. The explanation everyone has heard is because the assets are held in trust there isn’t an estate to be probated. Instead, the successor trustee can access, get under control, liquidate and ultimately distribute the estate to the trust beneficiaries. So, if this is what is suppose to work, what went wrong? These are the most common cases of probates in spite of a revocable trust being in place:
- Refinance. Very often when a client has a house in a trust decides to refinance the mortgage, the house gets transferred out of trust in order to make the financing go through. Too often the title company will transfer the property out but never takes any steps to transfer the house back in or even remind the owner that the house needs transferred back.
- IRA or Insurance Beneficiary dies. If you have named a beneficiary of your IRA or life insurance and they die, often the contract states it will be paid to your “Estate.” This often means probate.
- Leaving checking or investment accounts and vehicles out of trust. While you can have up to $75,000 outside of trust and not go through probate, sometimes accounts do not get titled in the name of the trust. If the total non-trust assets exceed $75,000, you may be in probate.
- Mortgages. While a house may be in the trust, and therefore avoid probate, if you have to work with a lender, you will need to have an executor appointed to represent the decedent in all dealings with the lender. The same may apply to other debts or the IRS.
Of course most of these can be avoided with just being mindful that most assets need to be titled in the name of the trust.
Call me with any questions, 480-345-0444
Kevin P. McFadden, Knollmiller & Arenofsky, LLP