The popularity of the living trust has soared in recent years as more people discover its significant estate planning benefits. Like a will, a living trust allows you to transfer property to your beneficiaries--but with one important difference--a living trust is not generally subject to probate (which can tie up your estate for years and consume a large portion of its value in court fees).

The Advantages of a Living Trust

1. Avoid probate.

2. Save your family time and money.

3. Avoid the need to probate out-of-state real estate.

4. Avoid the need for a conservatorship.

5. Keep your estate, assets, and debts confidential.

6. Change your mind at any time.

7. Avoid the need for a lawyer and judge to distribute your property.

How to Set Up a Living Trust

1. List all of your assets on a piece of paper.

2. Determine the approximate Fair Market Value of your assets.

3. Have a lawyer draw-up the appropriate trust document.

4. Transfer your assets into the name of the trust.

For example, if you own a home, you MUST change the title (deed) to the name of the Trust – i.e. from “John and Jane Doe, as husband and wife” to the “Doe Living Trust.”
 This is a simple procedure wherein a new deed is drawn-up, notarized and recorded with the County Recorder’s Office.

Bank accounts with significant assets also need to be changed to the name of the Trust – i.e. John “Doe Savings Account” must be changed to the “Doe Living Trust Savings Account.” This is a simple procedure that can be done by sending the bank an instruction letter and a copy of the Certification of Trust.

For other assets that do not have a title document, such as jewelry, collectibles, paintings, etc., these items can simply be listed in the Trust document.

Ways to Avoid Probate

1. Have a living trust

2. Gift assets while living

3. Live forever!