The creation of living trusts in order to transfer property to beneficiaries is becoming increasingly popular. One of the major benefits of using a living trust is the avoidance of probate. However, if the maker of the trust (called the grantor) does not actually fund the trust with property or other assets, the grantor’s estate will likely have to go through probate.
A revocable living trust is a form of estate planning that allows a grantor to determine who gets his or her property upon their death. A trust that is revocable can be altered, changed, or revoked during the life of the grantor. Upon the grantor’s death, the trust becomes irrevocable. After the trust becomes irrevocable, it cannot be changed and the trustee must follow the distribution plan made by the grantor. Alternatively, an irrevocable living trust is one that cannot be revoked once it is finalized. Both of these forms of trusts are called “living” trusts because they are formed during the life of the grantor.
Living trusts provide the benefit of the avoidance of probate, which is a court process in which a determination is made as to how property is distributed upon the death of an individual. Probate, which is governed under Illinois law by the Probate Act of 1975, is often expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, it often means that property is not divided in accordance with how the deceased individual would have desired.
In order to avoid probate, the grantor must correctly form the trust and fund the trust. A trust is formed through the creation of a written trust document that is signed by the creator of the trust and a notary public. The trust document must include a list of the property that is covered by the trust, name a trustee, and name the beneficiaries of the property included in the trust.
The grantor must transfer the property that is to be covered by the trust into the trust. For most property, a trust is funded simply by including a list of covered property in the trust document. However, real estate must be retitled in the name of the trust in order to be correctly transferred. A trust that has not had assets properly transferred to it is called an unfunded living trust.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for grantors to fail to fund their trust. This may occur when a grantor plans to get around to it in the future but never actually does it. Alternatively, a grantor may incorrectly believe that the creation of the trust document was sufficient. For example, in the case of real estate, the creation of the trust document is not enough due to the retitling rule. If a trust is not properly funded, the goals of the estate plan will not be achieved and the estate will have to go through probate.
Help with Estate Planning
Planning for what will happen to your property and assets is important for you and your loved ones. If you would like more information or help in forming a living trust, contact an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney today. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, Barrington, South Barrington, and Mount Prospect.
About the Author:Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.