Estate planning attorneys commonly help their clients establish is a Trust. Such Trusts are commonly called a “Living Trust” or a “Revocable Trust” or a “Revocable Living Trust”. Frankly, the title does not matter. In this blog, we will simply call it a “Trust.” Establishing a Trust provides multiple benefits, including being able to avoid probate and to control distribution. This is particularly helpful if your beneficiaries include minors or financially irresponsible adult beneficiaries.
In order to be most effective, assets or property must be put into the Trust—a step which is commonly called “funding” the Trust. Assets such as real estate, business entities, and financial account can be placed into the Trust. But a commonly asked question is “What about my vehicles–Should I title them in the name of the Trust?”
In our estate practice at Lins Law Group, P.A., we never recommend transferring title of vehicles into a Trust. There are several reasons for this advice. First and perhaps most importantly, in Florida a decedent’s vehicles can generally be transferred by going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (which is usually located at the local Tax Collector’s Office). when you go, take the following documents with you:
- Death Certificate
- Vehicle title or Registration
- Copy of the Last Will and Testament
- Proof of Insurance
With these documents in hand, the DMV will transfer title and probate will not be necessary. So if probate is not an issue when it comes to vehicles, why put a vehicle in the Trust?
A second reason that we do not recommend transferring title of your vehicle into a Trust is that vehicles seem to be magnets for lawsuits. If your vehicle is in a Trust and the vehicle gets into an accident, your Trust is most likely to be joined into the lawsuit. You do not want a Plaintiff’s lawyer being able to delve into your estate planning, and particularly into your Trust. This can also put your Trust assets at risk.
A third reason that we do not recommend transferring title of your vehicles in your Trust is that insurance companies do not know how to insure the vehicles. Some won’t insure them at all; others will insure them but charge a higher rate. Their thinking is that the Trust in more akin to a business than to an individual so “rating” the risk is different.
If you set up a Trust, discuss with your estate planning attorney about funding the Trust and dealing with assets, including vehicles. This advice and guidance on funding should be part of your estate planning arrangement and is very important. An unfunded or poorly funded Trust can cause problems for those you leave behind.