Does a Living Trust Need to Be Notarized?

By Holly Cameron

If you create a living trust, you transfer some or all of your property into a trust fund. When you die, the trust passes on these assets to your chosen beneficiaries. One of the main benefits of forming a living trust, as opposed to simply writing a will, is that it avoids the costs and delays associated with the probate process. Laws relating to living trusts vary from state to state; not all states require notarization. There are, however, certain advantages to notarizing a living trust.

Legalities of a Living Trust

You need a formal document to create a living trust. As soon as you transfer your assets or property into the trust, you cease to become their legal owner. The trustees or administrators of the trust become the owners and they may carry out transactions in relation to the property or assets in accordance with the trust deed. If you create a revocable living trust, you can change or revoke it at any time during your life.

Creating a Living Trust

You can either hire a lawyer or use one of the formation services available to create a living trust. Banks or financial institutions sometimes offer a living trust service for their customers. Some states require you to sign the legal document in the presence of two independent witnesses over the age of 18. The witnesses should also sign the document. Although state laws do not generally require notarization, you may also wish to have a notary present during the signing process.

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Role of a Notary

A notary certifies that a document has been properly signed and witnessed. He checks that the signer is of sound mind, that he understands the nature of the document and that he is not being forced or coerced in any way. The notary requires the signer to be physically present before he will notarize the document and will usually check for proof of identity if he does not know the signer. The notary also verifies the identity and age of the witnesses.

Advantages of Notarizing

If you use the services of a notary when signing a living trust, this stands as a permanent record of the legitimacy of the document. Circumstances change over time and the living trust may be challenged in court, either before or after death. If a notary has attended the signing and has verified that the document has been properly signed and witnessed, this adds to the authenticity of the document.

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