The short and simple answer is yes. Any property you own and have legal title to can be transferred into trust. That includes real property. Even real property that is subject to a mortgage can be placed into a trust. Most people, after all, don’t own their houses free and clear of a mortgage when putting their homes into trust. But transferring real property into the trust does not change your obligation to continue to pay the mortgage–if you don’t pay, they can still take back the house. In fact, if you’re thinking of putting your home into trust you should consider contacting your lender first. You might trigger a due on sale clause if one is included in your mortgage contract. The lender can call the entire mortgage due all at once because you technically no longer own the home. Further, if after placing your home into trust you decide to refinance your home the lender may require that you take your home out of trust before getting the new loan and putting it back into trust after getting the new loan.
Advantages of Putting a Home into Trust
Homestead Exemption Issues
If your line of work leaves you vulnerable to lawsuits you may want to consider your state’s homestead exemption laws. These laws put your house – or at least a portion of its value – out of reach of judgments or, in a worst-case scenario, your bankruptcy estate. When it comes to trusts, homestead laws can vary significantly from state to state. In some states, your property is only protected if you personally hold title. If you transfer ownership of your house to an irrevocable trust, however, this shouldn’t be a consideration. This type of trust also shields assets from creditors, so you’d just be exchanging one form of protection for another.
Avoidance of Probate Issues
Most living trusts are structured to avoid probate and its costs. While some states have streamlined their probate process, many still require cost, time and attendance at multiple hearings. Most homeowners wishing to avoid probate and transfer title to their home to their heirs quickly find avoiding probate through a trust to be a strong advantage.
Consider the Deed Used to Transfer the Home into Trust
The deed you use to transfer your property to your trust can present another issue. Real property can be transferred by two main instruments: a warranty deed or a quitclaim deed. A warranty deed guarantees a future buyer that there are no hidden liens or claims against your property, and that you – or your trust – actually own it. Thus, you have something to sell. A quitclaim deed, on the other hand, makes no such representations. It simply transfers any ownership interest you might have without guaranteeing that you have an interest or that it’s not encumbered by liens. A future buyer would be wary of this type of deed if your trustee finds that he must sell the house after your death. Depending on the type of deed you use to make the transfer to your trust, you could create a big estate issue in the process of settling your estate at your death.