Creating a living trust is one of the most important aspects of estate planning.  Today we’re going to discuss how to create an irrevocable trust for simple estates.  An irrevocable trust can’t be changed or terminated by the person creating the trust (the grantor) after the trust has been executed.  It’s no complicated to create your own irrevocable trust.

Self-help Books

There are many self-help books and materials on the market.  The key to finding materials that are truly useful is to make sure they’re either written or reviewed by experienced estate planning professionals or lawyers.  Make sure the materials have been updated with current estate planning laws.  A good self-help book will be written in simple language and will guide you through the entire process of creating the trust.  Once you’ve completed the trust, you can hire an experienced estate planning lawyer to review the document and suggest any improvements.

Beneficiaries & Trustees

Deciding who your beneficiaries and trustees will be is the most difficult part of creating a trust.  The beneficiary will receive proceeds from the trust.  The trustee will oversee the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.  You must also name a successor trustee in case the primary trustee can’t fulfill the obligations.  Keep in mind that you need to be certain of these choices because you won’t be able to change them later.

Creating the trust

If you’re using a self-help book, it will come with “fill in” forms you can use to create the trust.  If you’re using software, answer the questions asked and the program will develop the trust for you.

You need to be very clear about how you want the trust managed and funded.  You will need to specify how you want assets distributed, what age a beneficiary must reach before funds are distributed, etc.  Create a list of assets and give the list a name such as, attachment 1 or property list, etc.  Be sure to reference the name of the property list on the trust.

Review the trust to ensure there are no mistakes.  Be sure the names of beneficiaries and trustees are spelled correctly.  This will be your last chance to make any changes to this document.

Executing the Trust

Hire an experienced estate planning attorney to review the trust and make any recommendations before you execute the trust.  Now that the document is ready, you need to sign it in front of a notary public.

Transferring assets to the trust

Property that isn’t properly transferred to the trust, will not be distributed and will be subject to probate.  The list you created earlier and referenced in the trust is sufficient for all property that is non-titled.  However, all property with title documents will need to have titles transferred to the name of the trust.

Protecting your assets can be accomplished by setting up a living trust.  If all the assets of your estate are simple, you can set up your own trust very easily.  The hardest thing you’ll have to do when creating your trust, is to decide who your beneficiaries and trustees will be.  Quality self-help books and materials are great guides for the entire process.  Hire an estate planning lawyer to review the document and suggest any needed changes after you’re done.  If you’re assets are more complex or you don’t have anyone to name as trustee, be sure to contact an experienced estate-planning attorney.


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