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Q&A: "What Should Be Put Into A Trust?"

Estate Matters

Question and background: 

What should be put into a Trust? 

Suze Orman recommends that everyone create a Trust. What exactly should be put in the Trust? Your house? Your savings? Your checking account? Your investments? Other? How should these assets be titled?

Answer: 

This is essentially a legal question and you'll want to consult a qualified attorney for any specific legal advice. But here's some general information that may help you think through the issues. I'll first provide some context and then get to your question.... 

There are many different types of Trusts--Special Needs Trusts, Charitable Trusts, Education Trusts, Revocable Living Trusts, etc. And the question of what should be put into a Trust (called "funding" a Trust) depends on the type.

When Suze Orman suggests having a Trust, she's typically referring to what's called a "Revocable Living Trust (RLT)." 

An RLT is an estate planning tool that allows you (as "Trustor" or "Grantor") to transfer ownership of certain assets to the Trust, continue to enjoy and benefit from those assets, express your wishes for how those assets will eventually be distributed to beneficiaries, and bypass the standard probate process.

You can serve as the Trustee of your own RLT and appoint successor Trustees who will take over if you're unable or unwilling to look after it yourself. An RLT is "revocable" or changeable if you later want to make revisions to the Trust document. 

An RLT does not reduce income or (potential) estate taxes. In fact, any income earned by the Trust will, for tax purposes, pass through to you and be reported on your own personal tax return.

An RLT does bypass probate. So if you have a large estate and/or you live in a state where probate fees/taxes are high, having eligible assets owned by the RLT may eventually save your estate money on that front. Further, your RLT document is private and not subject to the same public records requirement that your Will would be in the probate process. 

Now to your question....

Typically the kinds of assets that would be transferred to an RLT (called "funding" the Trust) could include: cash accounts, non-retirement investment accounts, your residence, certain tangible personal property, your ownership of a business interest, etc. 

The titling of the assets will depend on how your RLT is specifically titled. It typically references the name of the Trustee, the formal name of the Trust, and the date the Trust was established.

You generally would not transfer your car into the RLT (well, maybe a vintage collector's car). You also don't transfer ownership of retirement plans (such as IRAs, Roth IRAs), since they technically have a separate custodian and, in the event of your death, the assets will pass according to your specific beneficiary designations. 

Hope that helps. All the best!