Proper estate planning is a process, not just a single task. Rather than being a single step, estate planning is more like an ongoing journey. Just because you have set up and executed a set of estate planning documents, that doesn't mean your estate planning is “done.” This is especially true if you have a plan with a revocable living trust. Once you've put your signature on all of your documents, including your living trust, there are beneficial things you can begin doing almost right away to ensure that your plan will be properly maintained.
One of the first things you can do, if you haven't begun already, is put together a list of all your assets. You'll need to list both your titled assets (like your home and vehicles, for example,) as well as your personal property (like furniture, jewelry and collectibles.) You'll need each of these lists for two different reasons. For assets like real estate, vehicles and financial accounts, you will need to make certain that they are funded by executing the proper paperwork establishing that you have transferred ownership of that asset from you as an individual to you as the trustee of your trust. Of course, this means that one of the first things you'll need to do after you've finished compiling your list is obtaining all of your current ownership documents, such as the deeds to all of your real estate properties and the titles to all of your vehicles.
For your real estate, funding means obtaining a deed from an attorney putting the transfer into legal effect. For your vehicles, funding entails a trip to the DMV and re-titling the auto. For your financial accounts, the institution where you hold your account(s) probably has their own special proprietary paperwork they'll require you to fill out to complete the transfer.
When it comes to your personal property, especially specific items that you want to specifically distribute to a particular beneficiary, your list will be especially helpful in making certain these assets get funded, too. They get funded a bit differently, however, since they don't have deeds, titles or other ownership paperwork. These assets get listed in a special place in your trust, which is usually referred as “Schedule A,” “Appendix A” or something similar. Listing these assets in your trust's schedule is a means of putting down in writing your intent to transfer them from you to your trust, where they can be distributed in accordance with the special instructions you've laid out in your trust document.
A popular self-help book from the 1990s advised, “Don't sweat the small stuff.” That may be true in a lot of areas, but not when it comes to funding your trust. Here, you want to be more like Santa Claus, as in “making a list and checking it twice” in order to be sure you've not left anything out. Do you hold an ownership interest in a business like an LLC, partnership or corporation? These assets can potentially be transferred into your trust, depending on the business's operating agreement or articles of incorporation. Do you hold any copyrights, patents or trademarks? The appropriate government office (the U.S. Copyright Office or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) have transfer forms. Additionally, if someone owes you money (whether from a loan or a legal judgment,) you can create a document that says that you are transferring, or assigning, your right to collect that debt to your trust.