A living family trust is a plan that controls the assets placed into the trust fund. A revocable living family trust is an agreement you can end at any time before death. An irrevocable living family trust can't be terminated except under circumstances allowed by state law -- and you usually need a court order. Both types offer drawbacks and advantages, but family trusts are commonly revocable because the trust owners retain ownership rights to the assets. You can create a family trust for any purpose -- and you can serve as the trustee of the revocable family trust.
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Write down the assets you want to include in the trust. You can fund the trust with various assets such as your house, retirement accounts and cash.
Select a trustee. If you decide to act as trustee, you still need to name a trustee to succeed you when you die. Pick a person you trust to manage the fund properly. Speak to the person about trustee duties to confirm she's able and willing to handle the responsibility.
Make a list of beneficiaries. Beneficiaries receive income and assets from the trust.
Write down the trust's distribution rules. Include how often income is paid to beneficiaries and the amounts, and any restrictions on what the money can be used for.
Write down the goal of the trust and what benefits you want to receive. Trusts provide tax benefits, for example, but the way the trust is set up determines for what tax breaks it qualifies.
Select a trust name. Use the family name in the trust's name, such as "The Johnson Family Living Trust", to make placing assets in the trust's name easy.
Contact an estate attorney. Go the official website of the state bar association to find a trust lawyer. Arrange to meet with the attorney. Bring the asset list, the beneficiary list, the trust's name, the trust's rules, the successor trustee's name and the trust's goals with you to the appointment. Ask the attorney to draft a trust agreement.
Check over the proposed trust agreement. Notify the attorney of any errors.
Sign the final trust agreement. Keep the original in a safe place.
Tips & Warnings
You can purchase fill-in trust agreements, but make sure the vendor is reputable -- and still have the agreement reviewed by an attorney before signing. Even if you fill it out correctly, failing to add the right clauses or omitting information can defeat your trust's intended purpose.
References & Resources
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