There are several inexpensive options available to help you draft a living trust. Use the following living trust checklist below to help you gather the necessary information you will need.

1. Identify the assets you plan to put into your trust.

When reviewing your living trust checklist, the first thing you should do is to list the assets you plan to put into your trust. Make a list of the contents of your estate including your home and other real property , vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. From this list, you can choose which assets you would like to place into the trust. Some of the assets can be transferred through other legal instruments upon your passing. Our clients typically put their real property into a trust. Other assets may be able to be distributed by pay-on-death provisions. All of these things will help avoid the probate process.

2. Organize your paperwork.

Gather together documentation pertaining to your assets. This should include the titles and deeds to real property, bank account information, investment accounts, stock certificates, life insurance policies or other assets you will be using to  “fund the trust”. Having this information available will make it easier to prepare your trust distribution provisions.

3. Select your successor trustee.

A successor trustee is appointed to wrap up a trust after the death of the person who created it. The successor trustee is tasked with managing the trust assets and distributing them as the trust documents directs. The trustee must identify and protect the trust assets, follow through with any other duties the trust instrument delegates, communicate regularly with beneficiaries, and end the trust upon its conclusion.

You can appoint more than one person as the successor trustee. You may want to consider designating co-trustees with an alternate trustee in the event the first trustee(s) is/are unable to fulfill their duties. Most importantly, discuss the role with the person you have in mind to make sure he/she accepts the responsibilities assigned to them.

4. Select guardian for minor children.

If you have minor children, it will be important for you to decide who will care for them should a guardian be necessary. A guardian should be designated for all minor children.

You will also need to decide who will manage any money a minor will receive. This would include how and when the inheritance will be distributed. Managing an inheritance can extend beyond when a child reaches 18. Sometimes it is beneficial to spread out the distribution of inheritance monies to a young person over an extended period. For example, you could allow for monies to be managed by a trustee up to a specific age, say 35, with periodic distributions at ages 25 and 30.

5.  Designate beneficiaries.

Next on the living trust checklist, you will need to select your beneficiaries. A beneficiary may be a person or business enterprise such as a nonprofit organization. Most people usually choose family, friends, and charities to inherit their property. Similar to selecting a successor trustee, it will be in your best interest to also choose alternate beneficiaries should a beneficiary predecease you.

6. Prepare the trust documents.

Once you decide what property you want to put into a trust, the successor trustee, and beneficiaries, you should prepare your trust documents. California has specific requirements that specify how the trust should be written. Contact us for more information. A People’s Choice uses the same legal software used by many California attorneys to prepare estate documents. You get the same documents but at a fraction of the cost an attorney would charge!

You can create an revocable living trust or an irrevocable living trust. As the name implies, an irrevocable trust can not be revised while you are living. A revocable living trust can be revised while the trustor is living, but could become irrevocable upon the trustor’s death.

You may also want to consider drafting a pour-over will and other standard estate documents. A pour-over will is meant to “catch” any asset that was not included in the trust. A Healthcare Directive will address important end-of-life decisions and appoint someone to make sure your right-to-due wishes are complied with. A Power of Attorney will give a loved one the ability to handle your finances should you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. 

7. Transfer designated property into the trust.

Once you have prepared and signed your living trust, you will need to transfer property into the trust. The trust will be “funded” once it holds title to assets. The specific method used to transfer property and assets into the trust will depend on the type of property involved. For example, you will need to prepare a Trust Transfer Deed to transfer real property into a trust. A People’s Choice can help you complete this critical and very important step on your living trust checklist. Contact us for more information.  

8. Store your trust documents in a safe place.

The final item of the living trust checklist is to store your trust documents in a safe place. Store your documents in a place your beneficiaries or successor trustee can reach them in case of your death. If you store the documents in a safe deposit box, make sure your beneficiaries or other party have access to the box. You can also provide your family members copies of your trust.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about preparing a living trust checklist and your estate planning documents.

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