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 online wizards to help you fill out the documents. The document produced is legally binding, and its use saves you legal fees when you feel an attorney’s advice is unnecessary.

Visit an Online Wizard

Websites such as Rocket Lawyer or Legal Zoom have tons of information about trusts and offer free trust documents that you can fill out online. 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.

Other sites such as Law Depot or U.S. Legal offer trust document templates with boilerplate language that you can download. These documents enables you to set up a simple trust without outside assistance.

Choose a Trust Structure

There are many different types of trusts so read around the subject before you begin. The main consideration is 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.

Write the Paperwork

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.

Sign, Witness and Notarize

You'll need to print out the trust documents when you’ve completed filling in the 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.

Trust documents should be signed with witnesses present and most states require them to be notarized. File the trust with the courts if your state requires such a filing for legality.

Transfer Trust Assets

Once the trust is set up, you'll need to start the process of transferring assets to it. Quitclaim deeds are the easiest way to transfer property ownership to the trust and remove your own name from the deed. You'll need to establish a bank account in the name of the trust so you can transfer 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.