Share

Living Trusts -

What is Probate and why does everyone want to avoid it?

What is a Living Trust?

What are the advantages of having a Living Trust?

Will I lose control over my assets if I establish a Living Trust?

What assets are left outside of my trust?

If I transfer real estate to my trust can the bank call my loan?

Why do I need a Pour Over Will if I have a Living Trust?





Q: What is Probate and why does everyone want to avoid it?

When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed.  If your loved one owned his or her assets through a well-drafted and properly funded Living Trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased's estate  The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court.

 Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing of an applicatio/petition with the proper probate court.
  • Notice to beneficiaries under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
  • Applcation/petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate.
  • Notice to creditors, published as required.
  • Inventory and appraisement of estate assets by Executor/Administrator filed with the court. 
  • Payment of estate debts to rightful creditors; Sale of estate assets, if necessary.
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  • Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries/heirs.


Back to the top.

Q: What is a Living Trust?

A Living Trust can be used to hold legal title to your assets and provide a mechanism to manage them. Most often, you (and your spouse) are the trustee(s) and beneficiaries of your trust during your lifetime.  You also designate successor trustees to carry out your instructions as you have provided in case of death or incapacity. Unlike a Will, a Trust usually becomes effective immediately after incapacity or death. Your Living Trust is "revocable" which allows you to make changes and even to terminate it.   One of the great benefits of a properly funded Living Trust is the fact that it will avoid probate and minimize the expenses and delays associated with the settlement of your estate. 


Back to the top.

Q: What are the advantages of having a Living Trust?

Like a Will, a Living Trust is a legal document that provides for the management and distribution of your assets after you pass away. However, a Living Trust has certain advantages when compared to a Will.  A Living Trust allows for the immediate transfer of assets after death without court interference.   It also allows for the management of your affairs in case of incapacity, without the need for a guardianship process.  With a properly funded Living Trust, there is no need to undergo a potentially expensive and time-consuming public probate process.   In short, a well-thought out estate plan using a Living Trust can provide your loved ones with the ability to administer your estate privately, with more flexibility and in an efficient and low-cost manner.


Back to the top.

Q: Will I lose control over my assets if I establish a Living Trust?

Absolutely not! During your lifetime when you are mentally competent, you have complete control over all your assets.   You may engage in any transaction as the trustee of your Trust that you could before you had a Living Trust.  There are no changes in your income taxes.  If you filed a 1040 before you had a trust, you continue to file a 1040 when you have a Living Trust.  There are no new Tax Identification Numbers to obtain.  The Living Trust can be modified at any time or it can be completely revoked if you so desire. Upon your incapacity, your durable power of attorney comes into effect and allows your loved ones to transact on your behalf according to the instructions you have laid out in the Living Trust. Upon your passing, the Trust becomes irrevocable so that no one can change your testamentary wishes. For married couples, the surviving spouse still has total control over his or her share of assets after its transfer to the survivor's trust, and the trust becomes irrevocable only as to the deceased spouse's share.


Back to the top.

Q: What assets are left outside of my trust?

Assets with beneficiary designations, such as a life insurance policy or annuity payable directly to a named beneficiary, need not be transferred to your Living Trust.   Furthermore, money from IRAs, Keoghs, 401(k) accounts and most other retirement accounts transfer automatically, outside probate, to the persons named as beneficiaries. Bank accounts that are set up as payable-on-death account (POD for short) or an "in trust for" account (a "Totten Trust") with a named beneficiary also pass to that beneficiary without having to be titled into your trust.  However, when you do your estate planning, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who is familiar with the intricate regulations of retirement accounts and can coordinate the appropriate beneficiary designations with your overall estate plan.


Back to the top.

Q: If I transfer real estate to my trust can the bank call my loan?

Federal law prohibits financial institutions from calling or accelerating your loan when you transfer property to your Living Trust as long as you continue to live in that home.  The only exception to the federal law, enacted as part of the 1982 Garn-St. Germain Act, is that it does not provide protection for residential real estate with more than five dwelling units.  However, we find that most clients who do own residential property with more than five dwelling units tend to own them through a business entity and not directly in their individual names and hence are not concerned with the five dwelling exception.


Back to the top.

Q: Why do I need a Pour Over Will if I have a Living Trust?

A Pour-Over Will protects against intestacy in the event any assets have not been transferred into the trust at the death of the Trustmaker/Owner. It will also invalidate any previous Wills which you may have executed.  Its function is to "pour" any assets left out of the trust into it so they are ultimately distributed according to the terms of the trust.


Back to the top.


Schnurr Law Firm, PLLC serves clients throughout the greater Houston area, including, but not limited to Houston, Bellaire, West University, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond, Rosenberg, Katy, Cypress, The Woodlands, Kingwood, League City, Webster, Clear Lake, Pearland, Angleton, and throughout Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County and Galveston County.



© 2017 Schnurr Law Firm, PLLC | Disclaimer
1111 North Loop West, Suite 1115, Houston, TX 77008
| Phone: 713-662-2889

Estate Planning | Family Limited Partnerships | Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) | Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) | Advanced Estate Planning | Probate / Estate Administration | Special Needs Planning | Elder Law | Pet Trusts | Business Law-Entity Formation | Uncontested Divorces | Mediation | Planning for Same Sex Partners & Unmarried Couples | Resources

Lawyer Website Design by
Zola Creative