Estate Planning 101

Adding a House to a Trust in North Carolina

In this blog post, we'll explore the ins and outs of adding a house to a trust in North Carolina. We'll delve into the benefits and drawbacks, discuss the costs involved, and provide a clear, step-by-step guide on how to navigate the process. We'll also address key topics such as estate taxes, selling a house in a trust, dealing with mortgages, refinancing, and transferring out of a trust.
April 10, 2024

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Estate planning is a vital part of securing your financial future and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of after your demise. A key aspect of this planning is deciding whether to add your house to a trust. In North Carolina, the laws surrounding trusts and estate planning are specific, and understanding them is crucial to making an informed decision. This guide will help you navigate through the process of adding a house to a trust in North Carolina.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Adding a House to a Trust in North Carolina

Before adding your house to a trust in North Carolina, it's important to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits:

  1. Avoiding Probate: By placing your house in a trust, it can pass directly to your beneficiaries upon your death, bypassing the probate process which can be time-consuming and costly.
  2. Privacy: A trust remains private, unlike a will that becomes a public document after death, keeping the details of your estate away from public scrutiny.
  3. Control and Flexibility: A living trust offers a high level of control and flexibility. You can specify the terms of the trust, and as the trustee, you maintain control over the property during your lifetime. You can also change or revoke the trust at any time.

Drawbacks:

  1. Upfront Costs: Setting up a trust can be more expensive upfront than creating a will due to its complexity and the legal assistance required to establish it.
  2. Maintenance: Trusts require ongoing management which could mean additional time and costs, especially if you have to hire a professional to manage the trust.
  3. Complexity: Trusts are more complex than wills and require more effort to set up and manage. You'll also need to transfer the title of your house to the trust after it's set up.

The Process of Adding a House to a Trust in North Carolina

Adding a house to a trust in North Carolina involves several steps which are crucial to follow accurately to ensure a smooth process.

  1. Create a Trust: The first step is to create a trust document that outlines the terms of the trust, including beneficiaries and what happens to the property upon your death. You can create a trust using an online estate planning service or by working with an attorney.
  2. Property Appraisal: It may be beneficial to have your property appraised to determine its current market value before transferring it into a trust.
  3. Title Transfer: The next step involves transferring the title of your house to the trust. This is done by drafting a new deed with the name of the trust as the grantee. In North Carolina, the deed must be signed in the presence of a notary public.
  4. Record the Deed: After the deed is signed and notarized, it should be recorded with the county recorder's office in the county where the property is located.
  5. Notify Your Mortgage Lender and Insurance Company: Finally, notify your mortgage lender and insurance company about the change in ownership.

Costs of Adding a House to a Trust in North Carolina

The costs involved in adding a house to a trust in North Carolina can vary based on several factors, including the complexity of the trust, the value of the property, and the trustee fees or attorney's fees if you choose to hire one.

  1. Legal Fees: The cost of setting up a trust can range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on whether you use an online service, a document preparation service, or hire an attorney to draft the trust. If you opt for an attorney, you can expect to pay an hourly rate, which can range from $200 to $500 per hour.
  2. Property Appraisal Fees: To determine the current market value of your home, you may need to hire a professional appraiser. The cost of a home appraisal in North Carolina typically ranges between $300 and $400, but it can be higher for larger or more complex properties.
  3. Deed Preparation and Recording Fees: There will be a charge to prepare and record the new deed. Deed preparation costs can range from $100 to $250, and recording fees in North Carolina are typically around $26 for the first page and $4 for each additional page, but this can vary by county.
  4. Mortgage and Insurance Considerations: If your house has a mortgage, you'll need to notify your lender that you're transferring the property to a trust. Depending on the lender, there may be a fee associated with this. Additionally, you'll need to inform your homeowner's insurance company about the transfer. Although this shouldn't result in additional costs, it's essential to ensure your property remains properly insured.

Estate Taxes in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the states that does not impose its own estate or inheritance tax. However, the federal government does impose an estate tax on estates exceeding a certain value, which for 2024, is $13.61 million for individuals and $27.22 million for married couples. Transferring your house to a trust does not exempt it from federal estate taxes. The property will still be considered part of your taxable estate. However, certain types of trusts, such as an irrevocable trust, can help reduce or even eliminate federal estate tax liability.

Selling a House in a Trust in North Carolina

Selling a house in a trust is entirely possible and fairly straightforward, but the process can vary depending on the type of trust you have. If the trust is a revocable living trust, and you're the trustee, you can sell the property just as you would if the house were not in a trust – by listing it, finding a buyer, and closing the sale. The proceeds from the sale would then go into the trust. However, if you're not the trustee, or if the trust is irrevocable, things can be a little more complex. The trustee would carry out the sale process and the sale proceeds would go into the trust for distribution according to the terms set out in the trust document.

Adding a House with a Mortgage to a Trust in North Carolina

If your house is still under a mortgage, you can still transfer a mortgaged house into a trust in most cases. This is protected under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, which prevents lenders from calling in loans or raising interest rates when a mortgaged property is transferred into a revocable living trust. However, it's crucial to inform your mortgage lender about the transfer. Failure to do so could potentially lead to complications down the line.

Refinancing a House in a Trust in North Carolina

Refinancing a property held in a trust can be a bit more intricate than a standard refinance. However, it's certainly not impossible and can be done with proper guidance. During this process, it's crucial to work with a lender experienced in dealing with trusts. They can guide you through the necessary steps and help ensure the trust's integrity remains intact.

Transferring a House out of a Trust in North Carolina

There may come a time when you wish to remove your house from a trust. The process for doing so will depend on the type of trust you have. If your house is in a revocable trust, the process is generally straightforward. As the trustee, you have the authority to transfer the property out of the trust. This involves preparing a new deed that transfers the property from the trust to your personal name or to a new owner. However, if your house is in an irrevocable trust, removing it can be more complex. This type of trust cannot be altered without the consent of the beneficiaries. Therefore, transferring a property out of this type of trust typically requires agreement from all parties involved and may require court approval.