How are assets transferred to a trust?

Putting assets and property into a trust is an important step to funding your trust and making sure those assets are available for your intended beneficiaries. Many kinds of assets can be placed in a trust, with varying ways to properly transfer ownership to the trust. In some cases, a Michigan trustee requires certain documents so that the asset is legally considered owned by the trust.

Ownership of some assets is governed by a title. If you own an asset with a title, you are listed as the owner on the title. In order to transfer ownership of the asset to the trust, FindLaw explains that you would need to change the owner designation on the title from yourself to the trustee. Assets with titles include real estate, stocks and bonds, investment accounts that do not include 401(k)s or IRAs, and automobiles.

Some accounts are not owned by you, but instead, you are a beneficiary, receiving money and benefits from them. So in order to transfer these assets to your trust, you would need to alter the beneficiary designation so that the trustee is listed as the beneficiary instead of yourself. These accounts typically include health savings accounts, pensions, retirement accounts, and life insurance.

Some assets are not tangible, meaning they do not take a physical form. While these can include various properties that have titles, they can also include financial interests such as a business ownership, royalty payments, or other ownership interests that entitle you to money. Intellectual property, like copyrights and trademarks, also fall under this category. These assets have no ownership titles, so instead, you would transfer your ownership rights to the trustee.

A lot of property does not come with a legal title at all. These forms of property usually include tangible personal property, basically stuff that you own in your home or your garage. Such items include your couch, end table, any kind of furniture you would have in your living room, as well as clothing or jewelry. As you would with intangible property, transferring these rights to the trustee is required to include them in the trust.

Even with all these methods, some assets can still fall through the cracks and not be transferred to the trust. To prevent this from happening, you can compose a pour-over will that dictates your remaining assets go into the trust. While a pour-over will does not avoid probate, it does give you a fighting chance to completely fund your trust as you wish.

This article is not written to provide legal counsel. The estate wishes of Michigan residents will vary, so only read this information for your informative benefit.