Revocable Trusts

Dear Len & Rosie,

I have just discovered that my husband put our three properties into a revocable trust. In December, 2002, he put them into a trust and now only his name appears on title. Does this mean I am no longer a joint tenant? Does this mean upon death or divorce I would not have a claim to the properties? I suspect he is leaving everything to his daughter from a previous marriage. He and I have been married for 18 years. I am upset and do not want to confront him until I know what this all means.


Dear Sue,

The deeds that you acquired are the "current vesting deeds" to each of your properties. These deeds are simply the last recorded deeds in the chain of title to each property. While the deeds now say that the properties are in your husband's trust, this does not mean that you no longer own any interest in these properties. You need to dig deeper.

If the properties were titled in joint tenancy before your husband signed and recorded the deeds, then only his half of each property was transferred to his trust. You should still be on title to half of each property. but the joint tenancy was severed by your husband. If your husband dies before you, his half of each property passes in the manner provided by his trust. If you die before your husband, then your half of each property passes in the manner provided by your own will or trust. If you do not have one, get one.

You and your husband have a classic blended family. It is easy to understand that he wants to protect his son's inheritance. If you were to inherit everything upon your husband's death, it isn't unthinkable that you would disinherit his son and leave it all to members of your own family. You need to talk to your husband about this. It would be very smart for you to acknowledge that his son ought to inherit his half of the properties, at least after the surviving spouse's death.

You also need to come to terms with your husband over what will happen to your home when one of you dies. The last thing you should want is to have to move after your husband's death because his son wants to sell the home. Hopefully, you can convince your husband to leave you his half of your home, or at least a right to live in until your death, in return for you doing the same for him in your own estate plan.

Len & Rosie

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol are elder law attorneys. Contact them at 846 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, by phone at (707) 996-4505, or on the Internet at Len also answers legal questions each weekday, 3-4PM on Newstalk910AM.