Does a Living Trust Need to Be Notarized?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

Does a Living Trust Need to Be Notarized?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

Depending on the state you live in, your living trust might need to be notarized. This type of document is one that is created during someone's lifetime. The purpose of it is to be able to quickly distribute assets to your beneficiaries upon your death without the executor having to go to court.

Living trust

Since your beneficiaries acquire your assets outside of the will, people often prefer a trust. Wills must go through probate court, which can take months, a year, or even more, to distribute your property to the beneficiaries.

Creating a Living Trust

The trust becomes the owner of any asset or property that you place into it. In order to transfer title, you simply need to fund the trust. This means you must transfer titled property, such as a vehicle or real estate, by signing the title over to it. You can also choose to place personal property into it, such as furniture, jewelry, and much more. Other assets, such as bank accounts and stock funds, can also be transferred.

You can create a document yourself by simply drafting up a form of what you want to transfer into it. You can choose to use a template, which can be found either online or at local stationery stores. You can also use a blank sheet of paper, and simply write down what you want to put into it. While you could use a third party, or even an attorney, it's not necessary. Just be sure to check the laws in your state to ensure that you properly draft and execute your document.

Use of a Notary and Witnesses

No matter who prepares your document, you're responsible for making sure you sign it properly by using a notary. In almost every state, you are required to sign it in their presence. Most states require that you sign your name only—not your name plus the name of the trust—when signing the document.

Even if your state doesn't require it, signing in front of a notary publicly tells third parties that the document was properly signed and executed, and that you are the person who signed it. It minimizes fraud because you must show at least one form of identification to the notary. Make sure you appear before the notary with an unsigned document because they must watch you sign it in front of them. You can find a notary at your local financial institution.

A few states, such as Florida, require that witnesses be present when you sign the document. Check with your state to see whether you need to have witnesses (and how many) and what you need to do to get your trust document properly completed. Filing with the court or county clerk is usually not necessary, although a few states require it.

Estate planning laws are constantly changing. A state that doesn't require a witness or notarization today may require it in the future. Ensure that you review your states current laws when creating your living trust.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.