Have you been lulled into a false sense of security because you have “done” your estate plan? Unfortunately, one of the dirtiest tricks that can be played on an unsuspecting family member may be lurking in the shadows: the way you own your property does not match your estate plan. This could make your estate plan a meaningless relic.
For your estate plan to work the way you envision it, it is important to understand that how you own your money and property (i.e., how assets are titled) determines who will receive those assets. A will only controls assets titled in solely your name and that do not have beneficiary designations. So, if you jointly own a bank account or home with a right of survivorship, the joint owner will inherit the property when you pass away. Because you were not the sole owner, your will does not control who receives it. Rather, the surviving joint owner receives the property. The law assumes that if you had wanted your will to control who received that asset, you would have held title differently.
Likewise, your trust will only control the accounts or property that are owned by the trust or that have designated the trust as the sole beneficiary. Regardless of what your trust says, it will not apply if the trust does not own or is not the named beneficiary of an account or piece of property.
Avoid tricking your loved ones when you intend to give them a treat by taking some time to review how your assets are titled. We can help you ensure that the title to your assets is consistent with your estate planning objectives so that your plan will work the way you expect.