Re-titling
assets, like stock and bonds, from one’s name into one’s living trust is necessary
to avoiding an unnecessary probate of such assets if held outside of the
trust.  Sometimes people fail to transfer
some or all of their intended trust assets into their trust.  A general assignment of assets to one’s
living trust provides an important safeguard.
Let’s examine what a general assignment is and how it helps to fund
one’s trust and avoid a probate with the help of a Lake County probate attorney:

                A
general assignment of assets transfers ownership on a wide variety of assets as
the name implies.  An all encompassing general
assignment is regularly used by estate planners to transfer all types of financial
assets (excluding tax deferred retirement accounts) and personal property (such
as the contents of one’s home) into the trust.
It is a half-step towards actually re-titling the securities and the
financial accounts into the name of the trustee.  Nevertheless, the settlor should still
proceed to contact the banks, brokerages, and stock transfer agents (as
relevant) to formally transfer legal title into the name of the trustee.  But, in the event that the formal legal title
is not transferred prior to death, the general assignment can be used to obtain
a court order to transfer legal title into the trust.

                In Kucker v. Kucker, (2011), 192 CA 4th,
90, the Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision wherein the trial court
disallowed a petition to transfer stocks into a trust based on a general
assignment of all assets by the settlor to the trustee.  The Court of Appeal agreed with the
petitioner that a general assignment of all or substantially all of the
settlor’s assets into one’s trust does cause the stocks to be owned by the
trustee.  An otherwise unnecessary
probate was thus avoided thanks to a general assignment by the settlor.

                Similarly,
a declaration of trust by a settlor to hold certain assets listed on a schedule
of pledged assets attached to a trust document can likewise be used to
accomplish the same result.  Most attorneys
use a schedule of initial trust assets and a general assignment to reinforce
one-another.  Moreover, unlike the
general assignment, the schedule of trust assets will also include the real estate
– together with a full legal description — for the same reason.  That is, if a trust transfer deed is not
properly executed prior to the settlor’s death, then the schedule of initial
trust assets to a declaration of trust can be used to petition the court to
transfer legal title into the trust without a probate.

                While
the general assignment and the declaration of trust are important safeguards
against the failure to formally transfer title to trust assets while the
settlor is still alive and competent, such safeguards are just safeguards.  The better course of action is to see that one’s
real estate, stocks and bonds, and financial accounts (and other trust assets)
are properly titled in the name of the trustee of one’s trust.  After all, filing a court petition entails
further expenses and delay in the administration of the trust that can be
avoided.  

 

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