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What is the best way to title assets or property into a Living Trust in order to avoid probate?

When a person establishes a Living Trust (also sometimes called a "Revocable Trust" or an "Inter Vivos Trust"), they must "fund" the Trust in order to avoid probate.

Funding the Trust means that the Settlor takes steps to make sure that his or her assets or property get into the Trust either by transferring ownership of the assets into the name of the Trust or by designating the Trust as beneficiary or as what is sometimes called a POD ("pay-on-death") or TOD (transfer-on-death") designation.

So what is the correct way to name the Trust if re-titling assets or naming the Trust as beneficiary or POD/TOD? Most estate attorneys recognize that there are two main formats used to identify the Trust when transferring title or naming as a beneficiary. The first is a long or full format which first names the Trustee and then the name of the Trust. The second just refers to the name of the Trust itself and does not identify the Trustee.

For example, if John Smith establishes a Trust and is the Trustee, the Trust can be referred to in either of the following ways:

Long or full format: John Smith, Trustee, or successor Trustee, of the John Smith Living Trust Dated April 30, 2014.

Short format: John Smith Living Trust Dated April 30, 2014.

Although either format will usually accomplish the Settlor's intent, in most instances the long or full format is preferred. In fact, in some instances, certain financial institutions or insurance companies may require the full format. When in doubt, the Settlor should either use the long format or inquire if the financial institution or insurance company will accept the short format.

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Attorney Michael Lins
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