Q:

Does the way in which I hold title make a difference in my overall estate plan?

A:

I like to tell people that title to assets is the estate plan. What we attempt to do in creating a comprehensive, integrated estate plan using a revocable trust and other documents is to have all the assets, if possible, all have one title, and that be in the name of the trust. For example, if we leave property as joint tenancy, we know that the surviving tenant will own the entire property. But what if this surviving tenant is not well? What if the surviving tenant is not able to manage that property? Well, we have created a problem.

Also, during a joint tenancy during life, if one joint tenant becomes incapacitated and the surviving or well joint tenant wants to sell the property or refinance the property, we now have a difficulty on our hands, because we have an incapacitated tenant. Yes, the manner in which you own title has a direct impact on your estate plan, and the goal of comprehensive integrated estate planning is to change all the titles into the name of the trust so they’re under the control of the trustees or successor trustees at all times, during the client’s life, during their incapacity, and of course, after they pass away.

Note: The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 signed into law in December 2017 increased the exemption amounts mentioned in these videos. The personal estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax lifetime exemption was increased to $11.18 million per person. The annual gift tax exclusion was increased to $15,000 per donee per year.

Both amounts are indexed for inflation and may increase year over year until December 31, 2025, when the law sunsets and reverts to 2017 values.