How to Set Up a Trust Without an Attorney

How to Set Up a Trust Without an Attorney
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Setting up a trust, unlike leaving your assets to someone via will, ensures that your assets are used precisely as you intend them to be for the beneficiaries of the trust. For extensive estates with a large variety of assets, this can be a complicated process requiring the use of estate planners, financial managers and attorneys to make certain the trust parameters are fully fleshed out. For those with less extensive estates, you can forgo the expert help, instead using a living trust kit. With the trust kit you use prepared document templates, providing information specific to your financial holdings and desires. The document produced is legally binding, and its use saves you legal fees when you feel an attorney’s advice is unnecessary.

Obtain a living trust kit. The living trust kit contains trust document templates with boilerplate language that enables you to set up a simple trust without outside assistance. Find a software-based version if possible, as it will allow you to follow on-screen prompts for the entry of information pertaining to the trust, explaining the process of establishing the trust as you fill out the forms.

Determine if you wish to create a living trust that takes effect before your death or a deceased trust that only begins after your estate goes through probate. If you choose a living trust you’ll also need to decide between creating a revocable or irrevocable trust. With an irrevocable trust you’ll need the agreement of the beneficiaries as well as the trustees to make any changes, whereas a revocable trust is dissolvable with the issuance of a letter of revocation, allowing more leeway in making any modifications necessary.

Fill out the templates with the necessary information. To create the trust you’ll need a trust establishment date, the date on which the trust becomes active and legally binding. You’ll also need to list the trust’s beneficiaries, those who you wish to serve as trustees of the trust and oversee the administration of the trust, and a list of your assets being placed into the trust. Set yourself as a trustee if creating a living trust if you wish to retain some control over the assets and the trust administration. Include the trustee powers over the trust, detailing what each trustee is allowed to do or not allowed to do while the trust is in effect.

Print out the trust documents when you’ve completed filling in the kit information. Read the documents to verify that all of your choices are included, and that the trust documents actually set up the trust as per your wishes. Sign the trust documents with witnesses present and have it notarized. File the trust with the courts if your state requires such a filing for legality.

Transfer the title of the assets that you’re assigning from your name to the trust. Create a list of personal items for transfer and sign them over to the trust's name using a notary as witness of the signature. Use quitclaim deeds to transfer property ownership to the trust, and remove your own name from the deed by listing the name of the trust as property owner. Transfer funds by establishing a bank account in the name of the trust and then transferring funds into the account. You can use the same process for the transfer of stocks and bonds into an account created in the trust's name. Once transferred, the trustees then control the assets.