Let's Put the "Fun" in "Funding"
I admit it: the title was a ruse to get you here, since there is really no way to make the funding process enjoyable. But, working together, we can take some of the stress out of it and make it as painless as possible.
But, first, let's start at the beginning: what the hell is "funding?" Funding is the word we use to describe the process of transferring title of your assets from your personal name into the name of the trust. That sounds annoying - you say - why would I want to do that? Answer: you don't want to do that, but you have to do that, since that is the key that unlocks the magic of avoiding the probate court (see here, item 2 under Benefits of an Estate Plan).
Here is a brief summary of what the funding process looks like for my clients:
Step 1: Stuff You Don't Really Have To Deal With
At our signing meeting, we will take some critical steps in the funding process. First, we will sign new deeds to any real estate that you own in order to transfer title in the real estate into the name of the trust. All you have to do is sign a few documents, and I'll take care of the rest.
Second, we will sign documents assigning to the trust any interests you own in any business entities and potentially any copyrights that you own. Again, a few signatures and your work is done.
Third, if you own any registered or pending patents or trademarks, we will work together to transfer these interests through the online system for the US Patent and Trademark Office. It might take a few minutes working through the system together online, but by the time you leave the meeting, that item will be off your to do list.
Step 2: Stuff That You Kind Of Have To Deal With
If you own any interests in timeshares, this is a slightly more involved (and expensive) process. I will take care of transferring the title online, but future correspondence with the title company will likely come to you directly. You'll just let me know when you hear from them, I will help you with any response, and when your title change forms arrive, we'll find a time to meet to notarize them and file them.
Step 3: Stuff That You Will Definitely Have To Deal With
For obvious reasons, there are a number of changes to your personal financial accounts that I am not allowed to make on your behalf. These fall into two categories:
For your bank and brokerage accounts, I will provide you with letters - written from you to the financial institution - explaining that you recently executed a trust and would like to transfer ownership of your accounts into the trust. I will also include a packet of documents attached to these letters that will provide the institution with the information it will need to effectuate the change. However, you will then have to contact the bank in order to make this change. While that sounds simple enough, in my experience, clients have received a lot of pushback from their banks about this change. These issues seem mostly to stem from the fact that the customer service representatives who take your call are not properly trained on this particular transaction. Therefore, it can take a couple of calls - and often a trip to the bank itself - before getting someone to finally make the change you need. The process seems to be slightly easier with brokerage accounts, where your direct contact is often better informed about trust transfers.
For your life insurance and retirement accounts, you will not transfer ownership of these assets; instead, you will want to contact the institutions to make changes to your beneficiary designations. You are welcome to keep your current designations as they are; however, you will want to add the trust to the list of your beneficiaries, especially if a potential beneficiary is a minor. This process tends to be much simpler than transferring title through a financial institution.
So, that's it! Might I suggest you take the "bandaid" approach and just rip through these steps and get it done as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to spend your precious time and hard-earned money to help your family to avoid the probate court just for them to end up there anyway because you didn't complete the funding process. But we'll end on a good note - once you do this once, you never have to do it again! In the future, you will simply take title to any new assets in the name of the trust at the outset. Awesome, right?!