What is a Trust?
A living trust, or revocable trust, is an estate-planning arrangement under which a trustee (which can be one or more individuals and/or a bank) takes title to the assets of the original owner (the "settlor"). In most cases, the settlor is also the initial trustee. The terms of the document designate who will take over as trustee when the initial trustee is no longer willing and able to act. The settlor is often the only beneficiary during his/her life.
What are the advantages of trusts?
Cost savings. Avoiding probate can save substantial fees and costs.
• Incapacity management. Named trustees can manage assets for a settlor's benefit if he or she is incapacitated, avoiding the need for a court-appointed conservator.
• Tax savings. A trust arrangement can reduce estate taxes for a married couple in certain situations. Ask a lawyer for more information.
• Beneficiary protection. Setting up a continuing trust arrangement in either a will or a revocable trust can protect beneficiaries who are too young or otherwise unsuitable to receive all of their inheritance outright in a lump sum.
How do I obtain a will or trust?
Consult with a lawyer experienced in estate planning to determine which estate-planning options are best for you. Using the services of someone not trained in estate planning can end up costing more money to fix problems.
In discussing an estate plan with a lawyer, make sure to speak openly and honestly about all of your assets. The person preparing your plan cannot determine your needs without knowing your circumstances.
To check the status and disciplinary history of a lawyer, look at the Find a Lawyer feature on azbar.org (which will include most discipline), or call the State Bar of Arizona at 602.340.7239. If you think you have been misinformed about living trusts, contact the Office of the Arizona Attorney General Fraud Line at 602.542.5763, or the Better Business Bureau at 602.264.1721.
How can we help you with your trust?
We can transfer your ADOT/MVD titled vehicles into your trust name. Typically we suggest that we put one or both Trustees on the title below the trust name for two reasons. First we would not need to keep a copy of your trust documents when transferring into the trust, and second there are no requirements to provide your trust documents to the new owner when selling the vehicle.
How much does it cost to transfer my vehicle into the trust name?
$37 for a new AZ Title and a reprinted AZ Registration to reflect the new owner(s)
Myths and Facts
Myth: Probate costs and attorney fees are usually as high as 10% of your estate.
Fact: Arizona court costs to open a probate are very modest. In addition, Arizona lawyers may charge only reasonable fees for necessary services, not percentage fees. Fees may increase in the event of tax issues, disputed creditor claims, or other litigation, but these same issues can arise with a trust.
Myth: In probate, assets are not distributed for several years.
Fact: An informal probate procedure can start as early as five days after death, and distribution can occur as soon as it is clear there are sufficient assets to pay expenses, creditors and taxes. Creditors have up to four months to submit claims and the personal representative may, but need not, delay distribution until the end of the creditors' claim period. A trustee may also have to delay distribution to pay taxes or divide property. An improperly prepared or funded trust may require money and time to correct before distribution can be carried out.
Myth: Probate forces the liquidation of your assets.
Fact: Liquidating assets is necessary only to pay expenses, creditors, taxes, or to make distributions to beneficiaries. A trust is not a guarantee against such liquidation for the same purposes.
Myth: Probate litigation is more expensive than trust litigation.
Fact: Unhappy family members or beneficiaries can challenge both wills and trusts. A trust is not a guarantee against litigation. Expenses will depend on the nature of the litigation.
Myth: A trust will avoid federal estate taxes.
Fact: A will or trust that provides for a "credit shelter trust" arrangement can reduce estate taxes for married couples who have combined assets over the federal estate tax exemption. A trust in and of itself does not reduce estate taxes at an individual's death, nor does a will.
Myth: Probate proceedings are complex and require special court approval.
Fact: In Arizona, most estates use informal probate procedures that do not require formal court approval. In many cases, personal appearance in court is not required.