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There are advantages to putting a house in a trust.

But can you sell a house that is in a trust?

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Would you like to learn how to put your home in a trust and the reasons for doing so?

When you buy and possess a home, your name is on the property’s title, signifying ownership. However, you have the option to shift ownership of your house to someone else or an entity through a real estate trust.

Why might you consider placing property in a trust? This choice can simplify the management and distribution of your assets, including your home, upon your passing. It also comes with legal and tax advantages. Explore further to understand the mechanics of a trust, various types to think about, the positives and negatives of putting your home in a trust, and additional details.

There are several reasons why you should consider placing your property in a trust. Doing so can provide you with a simpler way to manage and distribute your assets, including your home, after you pass away. Additionally, it offers a range of legal and tax benefits. In order to fully understand how a trust works and the different types available, it is important to explore this topic further. This article will also discuss the pros and cons of putting your home in a trust, as well as provide additional details.

What is a trust?

A real estate trust is a legal arrangement where the person who owns a house, also called the “grantor” or “settlor,” moves ownership of the property to another individual or entity known as the “trustee.” The trustee is responsible for handling and overseeing the property for the benefit of the grantor and any beneficiaries mentioned in the grantor’s estate.

Typically, the original homeowner becomes the trustee to retain control over the property. Alternatively, the original owner might designate someone else as the trustee, like a family member, friend, or lawyer. This can be useful in case the original owner passes away. Often, the trustees are grown children of the homeowner, who will inherit the property when the homeowner dies.

Revocable trusts vs. irrevocable trusts

Trusts are commonly used for reasons such as taxes, planning for your estate, or safeguarding your assets. Depending on the type of trust, it can shield your property from creditors and allow it to go directly to beneficiaries without going through probate court. There are two main types of trusts related to real estate: revocable and irrevocable.

Also known as a living trust, a revocable trust can be altered or canceled by the person who created it, known as the grantor. “A revocable trust lets the grantor stay in control of the property and make changes to the trust during their lifetime,” explains Ahn. “The grantor can adjust or dissolve the trust. They can act as the trustee and handle the property themselves or appoint someone else.”

A revocable or living trust is similar to a will, outlining the homeowner’s wishes after they pass away. When the grantor dies, the property in the revocable trust gets distributed to the beneficiaries according to the trust agreement’s terms.

On the other hand, an irrevocable trust, as the name suggests, is more permanent. Once it’s created, the grantor can’t change or dissolve it without the beneficiaries’ approval.

Other types of trusts

According to Ahn, the two main types of trusts commonly used in real estate are revocable and irrevocable. However, there are also other types, such as:

  • Charitable trusts: These are designed to support charitable causes, and the property goes to the charity after the grantor passes away.
  • Special needs trusts: Often used by individuals with disabilities, these trusts protect their assets and ensure they are used for their well-being.
  • Life insurance trusts: Created to handle life insurance policies for estate planning, they ensure that death benefits are distributed according to the grantor’s wishes.

Pros and cons of putting your house in a trust.

Benefits

Placing your home in a trust can offer various advantages that make this method of transferring ownership worthwhile.

  • Estate planning: One major benefit of putting your home in a trust is avoiding probate court after the original homeowner (grantor) passes away. This allows for quicker and more private ownership transfer. “When a homeowner places their home in a trust, the successor trustee gains the legal authority to sell the home without probate court involvement,” explains Cutler. This can save money and time compared to going through probate.
  • Asset protection: Assets held within an irrevocable trust are safeguarded from lawsuits and creditors. “The property in the trust is no longer considered the homeowner’s personal property. Instead, it’s held for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries,” notes Ahn.
  • Tax advantages: Trusts may provide tax benefits under specific circumstances. For instance, an irrevocable trust could qualify for a stepped-up tax basis upon the grantor’s death, potentially reducing estate and capital gains taxes when the property is sold. “A revocable trust doesn’t offer tax benefits as it generally lacks a separate tax ID number,” adds Cutler.
  • Ownership continuity: Trusts can ensure a property is passed down to future generations without formal ownership transfers. “This helps protect family assets and maintain ownership continuity,” emphasizes Ahn.

Disadvantages

However, there are downsides to putting your home in a trust.

  • Legal expenses: Creating and maintaining a trust can be expensive due to legal fees and ongoing administrative costs. “Initial costs can vary from $500 for a DIY option to several thousands of dollars for attorney fees,” explains Cutler. “Revocable trusts don’t usually have annual upkeep fees once the home is in the trust. However, more complex irrevocable trusts might require yearly tax filings.”
  • Loss of control: Trusts are intricate legal arrangements that demand a thorough understanding of the law and trust mechanisms. “This complexity can make managing your own trust challenging for the average person,” notes Ahn. You might need continuous legal guidance.
  • Permanence: With an irrevocable trust, the terms cannot be altered or revoked after establishment. “Depending on the trust’s terms, homeowners could face limitations on property usage, such as renting it out or making improvements,” warns Ahn.

How to put your home in a trust

No matter which kind of trust you go for, enlisting an attorney’s assistance is a smart move when establishing a real estate trust. Here’s a breakdown of the basic steps:

  1. Pick a trustee (yourself or someone reliable like a family member, friend, or attorney).
  2. Set the trust’s terms, then create and sign a trust agreement.
  3. Sign a deed that names the chosen trustee as the new property owner.
  4. Submit the deed to the county recorder’s office for recording, often with a recording fee. After recording, the property is officially in the trust and is legally binding.

Bottom line

Placing your property in a trust is a clever approach to make sure passing ownership to your beneficiaries after your passing goes smoothly. It also guards the property against creditors and legal claims, and skips probate. However, this process can be intricate and come with costs. It’s crucial to work closely with a lawyer to explore your choices and think carefully about who you’d like to assign as trustee before making a decision.

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