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What should you include in your revocable living trust?

Many Californians make a revocable living trust the centerpiece of their estate plan. It allows them to maintain control over their assets while they're alive and well. Then the assets are transferred to their designated heirs and beneficiaries upon their death.

A revocable living trust is "living" in another sense. The person who establishes it can add or remove assets during their lifetime. Note that these assets need to be titled (or retitled) to reflect the name of the trust.

So what kind of assets are typically used to "fund" a revocable living trust? Let's look at some of the most common ones:

Bank and investment accounts: Note that this doesn't include common retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s.

Real estate: If you put your home in your revocable living trust, you'll need to get a new deed that lists the owner of the home as the trust. If you purchase a new home and put it in the trust, remember to list the trust as the owner. That can be easy to forget in the chaos of moving.

Business interests: This includes partnership interests and stock in closely held corporations. You'll need to check any agreements you've signed to make sure there are no restrictions on retitling your interests or shares in a business.

Other personal property: This includes vehicles, jewelry, furniture and all tangible property.

Intellectual property: This includes copyrights, patents and trademarks. Check with the government agency with which this intellectual property is registered before changing your registration to the name of your trust.

Your estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance on what assets can be placed in a revocable living trust and how to retitle your assets. This can help make things easier for your loved ones after you're gone.

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