You can keep your real estate out of probate by transferring it into a living trust. The property transfers through the living trust to your named beneficiaries, outside of probate. You transfer ownership of the property by preparing a deed naming the living trust as the legal owner. If you have a revocable living trust, you retain control over the property as the grantor. You can take the property out of your living trust or sell it at any time. However, if you have an irrevocable living trust, the trust owns the property and has control over it.
Find the original deed you received when you first bought the property. If you can’t locate the deed, you can get a certified copy of it from your local clerk of court. Examine the deed to see if anyone other than you is listed as the owner. All the owners included on the original deed must sign the transfer deed in order to place the property into the trust.
Examine the deed to see if the property was originally transferred with a warranty deed. A warranty deed guarantees that you have clear title to the property. This means there are no liens or ownership claims raised by a third party. Resist the temptation to use a quit claim deed. A quit claim deed only transfers the property from your name into the trust. It does not guarantee a clear title. If you decide to sell the trust property, a buyer may not complete the purchase until you provide a warranty deed.
Follow the format of the original warranty deed when you prepare your transfer deed. Type the trust name exactly as it is spelled in the trust documents. For example, replace your name of John Doe with that of the Revocable Living Trust of John Doe dated Jan. 1, 20XX. Prepare a separate signature line for each grantor. If you are the sole grantor, type the name under your signature line as John Doe, as Grantor and Trustee of the Revocable Living Trust of John Doe dated Jan. 1, 20XX.
Take your completed deed to a notary public to have the signatures notarized. All the trustees must sign the deed in front of the notary. Call ahead to find out how many forms of identification you must bring to the notary’s office. Sign your name exactly as it appears on the deed in front of the notary. Take the signed and notarized deed to the clerk of court and have it recorded in the public records. Update the list of trust assets attached to your trust once the deed has been recorded.
- Call the clerk of the court before you prepare the deed to verify how many people you need to act as witnesses when you sign the deed.
- Check with your lender first if you have a mortgage on the property. Some lenders will not allow you to transfer your property into your trust unless you pay off the loan first.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.