Most Common Estate Planning Mistake With a Utah Family Trust

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Let’s talk about the number one mistake people make with their Utah family trust. Now, I don’t care where you got the trust. You may have this problem and, we see it a lot. And it doesn’t have anything to do with how the trust is written. You may have bought a trust package online. That’s fine, if you did it correctly. You may have followed the instructions precisely. You may have bought the trust from a really good estate planning lawyer. You may have bought the trust from a not so good estate planning lawyer and paid less. Maybe they did their best, but this mistake has little to do with the wording of the trust. It has everything to do with getting property into the trust.

So let me just remind you a little bit about how trusts work. Trusts are legal arrangements where you create a trust and then you transfer property into it. Therefore you don’t own the property anymore because the trust owns it. The trustee of the trust, which is usually yourself, manages the trust. Trusts have great advantages in many cases, including the advantage of avoiding probate and the advantage of protecting you in the event of disability, which allows someone to step in automatically and manage your property. There are many other advantages, and we’ve discussed that elsewhere on this website.

In order to have the advantages you paid for when you bought a Utah family trust, you need to make sure your property is transferred in it. I’m talking about the real estate. For instance, your house doesn’t get in the trust just because it’s listed in the trust. You may have listed all of your assets on an exhibit or somewhere in the body of the trust. You may be adding to that list every year, or making additional lists, and putting it with the trust. It doesn’t matter what is listed in the trust. It doesn’t matter.

Real estate cannot be transferred simply by listing it in the trust. Neither can cars, neither can many other assets. So if you “think” you have it in the trust, what happens when you die? People come to a lawyer like me and they say, “Hey Mr. Helgesen, listen, we want to get this property transferred. We’re having some problems”. I will usually look at it and I say, “You don’t have the property you think is in the trust. You have an empty trust”. We call that an unfunded trust in the legal field. This means your trust is empty. You haven’t done the steps that need to be done.

Now, I know that some of you paid a lot of money. If you went to a good lawyer, you probably paid somewhere between $2,000 and $25,000 for a good family living revocable trust in Utah. Your family trust is important and you’ve invested heavily in it.

Make sure that all of your property is transferred into the trust! Don’t have an empty trust!


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