Suitcase on BeachA trust is a vehicle for managing and disposing of property. Just as you don’t want to leave your suitcase on the beach when you return from vacation, you should ensure that your assets are securely loaded into the trust you have created. If you don’t, your assets may end up held in the legal equivalent of a “lost and found” with the competing claims resolved only by adjudication in a California courthouse. Disputes over property ownership are all too common in California trust litigation.

A case published last week by the California Court of Appeal illustrates this point. In Carne v. Worthington, the court considered whether Kenneth Liebler had transferred certain real estate from a trust he created in 1985 to a trust he created in 2009. Liebler stated in the 2009 trust instrument “I transfer to my Trustee the property listed in Schedule A, attached to this agreement” and listed the real estate in the attached schedule. Liebler could have avoided litigation simply by signing and recording a deed transferring the property from himself as trustee of the 1985 trust to the trustees of the newly-created 2009 trust.