From this page you can access all sections of our free Living Trust Guide. Here is a brief overview of what you will find in our Living Trust Guide:1. An overview of revocable living trusts. Making a living trust involves a lot of steps. You will also have to maintain the living trust throughout your lifetime. Before making a living trust, review the overview of
to ensure you understand what is involved.2. A living trust is not a substitute for a will. You still need to execute a valid will, called a pour over will, at the same time you execute a living trust. See our article on understanding
wills and living trusts to learn why.
3. There are several benefits to making a living trust. A living trust can provide benefits to your surviving spouse, your children, and other beneficiaries. Two of the primary advantages of a revocable living trust include avoiding probate of your estate and potentially reducing taxes. To learn more about the reasons to consider making a living trust, see the
benefits of living trusts.4. In order for your estate to pass through your living trust and avoid probate, you have to fund your living trust. This involves transferring title to your property to the trust. To learn the steps involved in funding your living trust and get answers to common concerns about making title changes, see our article on
living trust property.5. When your living trust is drafted, you need to tell your attorney how you want your property distributed. While one option is to have your estate divided into equal shares and distributed to your beneficiaries, another option is to leave specific property to individuals named in your trust. For the choices involved in making your estate plan, see
making specific bequests.6. If you made a revocable living trust and decide you no longer want it to be part of your estate plan, you can terminate the trust. For a list of steps required to end a revocable living trust, see how to revoke a living trust.7. To print a copy of Pennyborn.com's free estate planning form that will help you keep track of action items you need to complete to make and fund a living trust, go to
living trust checklist.8. If you are planning to make your own living trust without using an attorney, go to
estate planning software for a review of do it yourself options.
9. If you want your house or other real estate to pass to the beneficiaries of your living trust, you need to execute deeds to properly transfer title out of your name and into your trust. To learn about these types of deeds, see
trust transfer deeds.10. The laws applicable to living trusts vary from state to state. To be valid, your living trust must be executed in accordance with the requirements of your state. In addition, your living trust needs to be drafted with consideration of the inheritance rights of your legal heirs, such as your spouse and children. These inheritance rights vary, depending on applicable state law. For information on estate planning laws in your state, see
Trust Law.11. After you make a living trust, you may need to change the beneficiaries from time to time. There are specific procedures that must be followed to change a living trust and make sure such changes are enforceable. See how to
change trust beneficiary.12. Although a revocable living trust is probably the most widely known type of estate planning trust, you may find another type of trust is more suited to your unique goals and situation. Some commonly used types of estate planning trusts include minor's trust, special needs trust, life insurance trust, grantor annuity trust, dynasty trust, and charitable trust. To learn about your options, see
other types of trusts.13. If you have pets or other animals, remember to make provisions for them in your estate plan. Without you, there is no guarantee they will have food, shelter or veterinary care. If your estate goes through probate, all your assets could be frozen, leaving your executor without access to funds to pay for their care. Making a pet trust is one way to try to ensure the animals that rely on you are not abandoned or sold if something happens to you. To learn about this type of estate planning trust, see
Administering a Living Trust
In addition to questions about making a living trust, most people have questions about what happens with a living trust after they pass away. Pennyborn.com's free living trust guide provides information on the process of administering a living trust, as well as estate administration and probate. Our living trust guide is also helpful to first time trustees that need information on the steps involved in administering the trust of a deceased person. The following sections of our living trust guide are a good starting point to learn about trust administration and settling an estate:
1. For a detailed overview of the process of administering a living trust, including creating an inventory of trust property, distributing property to trust beneficiaries, and closing the trust, see
trust administration.2. If you have never served as a trustee before, you probably have questions about your duties, whether you can be held financially liable, whether you will be paid for your time, and whether you can resign as trustee if you do not want to serve. For answers to these and other questions, see our article
for trustees.If you need to hire a bank or trust company to administer a trust, review our article on
trust administration fees first.3. New trustees are often overwhelmed by the amount of work required to administer a living trust, especially if they are also executor of decedent's estate. However, trustees should keep in mind their fiduciary duties and what can happen if they fail to perform their duties within strict deadlines. Pennyborn.com offers two free estate planning forms designed to help trustees keep track of the steps involved in administering a living trust. First, review our free Trustee Checklist for trust administration.Then print a copy of our free
successor trustee checklist form which is a more detailed trust administration checklist.
Living Trust Guide
If you cannot afford an attorney, don't rely on unreliable sources of information about living trusts. There are many affordable ways to plan your estate, and low cost options are available. To learn more about administering a living trust, browse these pages of our free living trust guide below:
There is a lot of conflicting information passed around about living trusts. Just like a rumor passed from one friend to another, much of the information you hear from friends and relatives about living trusts is incorrect. Another source of misleading information about living trusts is sales people. Be wary of anyone who invites you to a seminar to learn about living trusts. Unfortunately, these sales people tend to prey on the elderly and often do not have your best interests in mind.
The best source of information about living trusts is a lawyer licensed in the state where you live. An attorney can also provide advice about methods of avoiding probate, and whether probate is even a concern, based on the assets in your estate. See finding an attorney.