At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation we see trusts everyday that are drafted by other estate planning lawyers in San Diego or even by our own firm that cause some concern. Once your trust is drafted, it is intended to be reviewed periodically and also there are some things you need to aware of.
Not transferring into your trust all of your assets that should be in the trust. Depending on your attorney and what arrangements you make concerning transfer of assets into the trust, some transfers of assets require an affirmative action on your part. For example, to transfer your accounts into the name of your trust, you often have to visit the bank and fill out new signature cards. If you forget to do this, the bank account will not be in the trust at the time of your death, causing problems for your heirs. As you acquire new assets or change the form of the ones you have, you need to remember to title those new or changed assets into your trust. Assets that are left out, with some exceptions, will require probate and that is what you were trying to avoid in creating the trust in the first place.
Writing on your trust, crossing out words, or writing in the margins. We often have clients come into the office for a review of their trust or for some other service and find that their trust document has words crossed out or writings in the margins or highlighting. Please remember that a trust is a notarized document and it can only be changed by another document that is notarized. You cannot change your trust by crossing out language and adding the changes with your signature; it has to be formally amended. Also if we are going to petition the Court for some reason concerning your trust, a clean copy of the original trust will have to be filed.
Not amending your trust when important events happen in your life. We always try in our office to draft a trust that will take into consideration later children born or other events which may occur, however there are some events that require you to amend your trust. An example is a child born to you after the trust is drafted that is born with a disability or special needs, or later in life becomes disabled and receives SSI or Medi-Cal. Your existing trust may call for your estate to be divided equally to your children with no mention of special needs, causing your disabled child to lose his or her public assistance. A special needs trust for a beneficiary has to be set up as part of your estate plan so such an event will necessitate an amendment or a separate Special Needs Trust. There are other events that might happen in your life that also will cause your trust to become outdated such as an inheritance, death of a successor trustee, or deaths of beneficiaries.
Not keeping the original of your trust in a safe location. People differ in their opinions as to where a trust should be kept. Some people feel more comfortable keeping it in a safe deposit box. A trust can be quite lengthy however and some people feel that the cost of a box big enough to hold the trust is a factor plus the inability to have access to it. Other people purchase a safe or a fire proof box. The fires of 2007 made the point that just keeping your trust in a file cabinet at home without a copy anywhere else can be a problem. The estate planning attorney who drafted the trust should keep a copy but sometimes years later it may be difficult to locate the attorney or the document.