9-Steps in Creating a Living Will and Trust
1. Decide whether you need a shared trust or an individual trust for your living estate.
If you are married or in a domestic partnership and you and your spouse or partner own most of your property together, a shared trust may be the right way to go. Your other choice is two individual trusts.
2. Decide what items to leave in a Living Will and Trust.
You probably don’t want to hold all your property in your living trust — just the big-ticket items that would otherwise go through probate.
3. Decide who will inherit your trust property.
For most people, choosing family members, friends, or charities to inherit property is easy. After you make your first choices, don’t forget to choose alternate (contingent) beneficiaries, too.
4. Choose someone to be your successor trustee.
Your trust must name someone to serve as “successor trustee,” to distribute trust property to the beneficiaries after you have passed. Many people choose a grown son or daughter, other relative, or close friend to serve as successor trustee. It’s perfectly legal to name a trust beneficiary—that is, someone who will receive trust property after your death. In fact, it’s common. Once you’ve made your choice, discuss it with the person you have in mind to make sure he or she is willing to take on this responsibility.
5. Choose someone to manage property for youngsters.
If children or young adults might inherit trust property, you should choose an adult to manage whatever they inherit. To give that person authority over the child’s property, you can make him or her a property guardian, a property custodian under a law called the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), or a trustee.
6. Prepare the trust document.
You can create a Living Will and Trust document (formally known as a Declaration of Trust or trust instrument) yourself, if you have good information and help.
7. Sign the trust document and get your signature notarized.
After making your trust document, you (and your spouse, if you made a trust together) must sign it in front of a notary public.
8. Transfer title of property to yourself as trustee.
This is a crucial step that, unfortunately, some people never take. But to make your trust effective, you must hold title to trust property in your name as trustee — for example, if John Smith wants to hold real estate in his trust, he must prepare and sign a new deed transferring the real estate to “John Smith, trustee of the John Smith Revocable Living Trust dated June 4, 20xx.”
9. Store your trust document safely.
You don’t need to file your trust document with a court or any government agency. Just keep it in a safe place–for example, a small fireproof home safe–and tell your successor trustee where the trust document is and how to get access to it when the time comes.
NOTE: Rink & Robinson, PLLC are certified public accountants and consultants, not lawyers. We suggest when preparing legal documents that clients should be due diligent in their paperwork filings and consult with an attorney. Rink & Robinson, PLLC can help in creating a Living Will and Trust.