Living Trust

Living Trust

For Planning Purposes Our home (approximate value $750,000) is in my wife's name. Should we re-title the home as jointly owned, and do a living trust or both. We have 2 children. All other assets either Have beneficiaries or owned in joint.


You seemed pre-occupied with avoiding probate. While minimizing the time delays and costs of administering an estate are reasonable goals, they never should be the primary or only goals of an estate plan. An estate plan should address income tax minimization, estate (federal and state if applicable) tax minimization, personal goals, asset protection and more. If your house is owned jointly it avoids probate on the death of the first of you or your wife, without a trust.

If you own assets jointly then you could effectively be doubling up most assets in the surviving spouse's estate. This could make it difficult or impossible to have assets trasnfer to trusts to provide other benefits. It could result in your incurring an estate tax that might otherwise be avoidable.

Depending on the maturity, careers, marital security and other factors affecting your children (now or in the future!) it might be beneficial for them if assets you bequeth are in a trust. It does not appear that your plan addresses this.

If you reside in a community property state (or have assets that are community property) you need to address those issues as well.

Living trusts are great tools, but they should be used appropriately. You really need to consult an estate planner in your state and be sure to start with the BIG PICTURE of what your plan should be about, not the implementation decisions (like re-titling a house).

You might find it helpful to read "The Complete Living Trust Program" by Shenkman, published by Wiley. Its a bit dated on the tax figures but the living trust concepts will help clarify many of your issues. That might be a good first step before your consulting an estate planner.

Good luck.

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