How to Write a Last Will & Living Trust

By David Carnes

A last will and testament sets out how your property is to be distributed after your death. A living trust, also known as an inter vivos trust, allows you to dispose of your property while you are still alive, as well as after your death. Many people use living trusts to avoid the delays of probate court and to avoid estate taxes.

Will

Step 1

Create a written inventory of your property, including real estate, personal property, bank account funds, and intangible property such a stocks and bonds.

Step 2

Identify yourself clearly in the first section of your will, and use wording that makes it clear that the document intends to provide instructions for distributing your property after your death. Include your full legal name, your social security number and your current address.

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Step 3

State that your will revokes previous wills and codicils, if this is not your first will.

Step 4

Appoint an executor for your estate, along with an alternate. The executor administers your estate while it is in probate. If you have minor children and your spouse is dead, appoint a guardian and an alternate.

Step 5

Instruct the probate court on how to distribute your property. Use your inventory to specifically state which property goes to which beneficiary.

Step 6

Sign and your will in the presence of two or three witnesses and a notary public, depending on state law. The witnesses should also sign and date the will. Present your ID and the witnesses' IDs to the notary public, and have the notary public sign and stamp the will.

Living Trust

Step 1

Draft an introductory paragraph. State your name, address and social security number, and state that you intend the document to create a trust.

Step 2

Identify the assets that you will fund the trust with. They should be assets that are clearly excluded from your will.

Step 3

Appoint yourself as administrator of the trust. You will remain in custody of the trust property and will determine which beneficiaries get what.

Step 4

Name a successor administrator of the trust to take office as soon as you die. Be sure to get permission from your appointee before you name him. If the administrator is an individual, name an alternate administrator as well. A trust can also be administered by an organization such as a bank.

Step 5

Provide instructions on how the successor administrator is to distribute the trust assets after you die. Name your beneficiaries, and specifically state which property goes to which beneficiaries.

Step 6

Sign and date the trust document in the presence of a notary public, and have the successor administrator sign it as well.

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Consumer's Guide to Living Trusts & Wills in Arizona

References

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The Pros & Cons of Making a Will

A will is a written legal document that describes how you would like to distribute your property after you die. However, there are both pros and cons to making a will and whether drafting a will is beneficial to you may depend on your particular circumstances. In addition, there are other estate planning tools that you can use to handle your property following your death, such as creating a living trust. If you do not have a will or other estate planning document in place upon death, your property will be distributed according to your state’s rules.

How to Leave Money in a Will to Grandchildren for Education

When you bequeath property in a will to someone, she obtains total ownership over the property. While you may suggest in the will how you wish the property to be used by the recipient, once the probate process is closed, that person is not bound to follow your instructions. By creating a testamentary trust in your will, you can place restrictions on how the property you leave behind is to be used, which your beneficiaries must follow. This can be especially useful if you want to provide money for your grandchildren’s education, but want to ensure they don’t use those assets for something else.

How to Create a Legal Trust

A trust is a legal instrument that is useful for tax and estate planning. Under a trust arrangement, a trustee manages assets you transfer to the trust for the benefit of beneficiaries you select. You retain only indirect control over trust assets – the trustee must dispose of the assets as you direct in the trust deed that creates the trust. A trust is fairly simple to create, although it is prudent to have a lawyer look over the trust deed before you sign it.

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