Can You Draft a Living Trust on Your Own
When it comes to trusts, most people wouldn’t dream of touching them without an attorney’s assistance. Unlike wills, trusts tend to be highly complicated documents. It’s easy to make mistakes in the formation and in turn leave your estate going through probate. Instead of risking it, most people hire attorneys to represent them in this matter, but some people would still rather do it on their own. Here are some things that you will need to consider.
Understanding Your Reasons
A revocable living trust is not the same as a will. Instead, it is an estate planning tool that allows your estate, or at least the contained portions of your estate, to past to your heirs faster and in a more private fashion. It does not completely take the place of a will, and you should not try to make it fill that role. However, it can allow for a more efficient property transfer. If you want to make a living trust so that property can be distributed more precisely, then a living trust may be a good solution. If you want to set up a guardian for your child or something that involves people’s care, you should not look to a living trust.
Prepare for the Research
Unlike a last will and testament, living trusts have a number of requirements. Wills are often written by testators who have not spoken to attorneys. However, living wills require significantly more formalities. They are not typically prepared by non attorneys, and the court will not give you as much leniency as it would if you have prepared a will on your own. Many states have precise language that must appear in the trust to make it binding. In some cases, you may need to choose from a variety of phrases and words to determine the best result. Make sure that you apply the laws strictly. Do not assume anything. One of the biggest reasons that these sorts of documents fail in court is because the drafter assumes that a certain fact will be interpreted his way or that the language can only be interpreted one way. It helps to look at it from the perspective of someone who wants to invalidate the living trust. If you can come up with a conceivable way that an adversary might undermine you, seek to address that.
You should plan to invest between 10 and 20 hours on your living trust, depending on how complicated your state’s laws are and how complicated your trust is. One exception to this is when you find software that allows you to prepare a trust electronically. Just remember to double check the laws. While these programs are generally good, they still tend to use boiler plate language that a determined attorney might be able to break.
You will not want to prepare your own living trust if the situation is quite delicate. For instance, if you intend to leave one child out of the trust or if you know that someone is trying to steal something of yours, you may need to consult with an attorney.