Sure you can write your own revocable living trust. In fact, you can do it better than a lot of the attorneys. First you have to ascertain that you really want a trust. The discussion of your need for a revocable living trust is in another of my articles, but it is safe to say that if you own real property and have a significant estate (over about $50,000), then you could use a trust and it would help your loved ones.
Revocable living trusts and a trust called a “land trust” are quite simple to write, if you get a good kit to help you. I lean toward the kit format of self help rather than the online self-help systems where you answer a few questions and the computer magically spits out a trust document. Those require little or no thought, and you just end up with a document, but you don’t understand the document. Additionally, you don’t know what other options you had and what other issues should have been addressed. You just got what was produced by the computer.
The computer generated documents and “fill-in-the-blank forms” tend to be short, because they are pitching to the lowest common denominator. The forms are certainly “legal,” but they don’t address many of the issues that really should be covered. This is true whether you are preparing a revocable living trust, corporate bylaws, LLC documents, or any other legal documents. You need the option to address as many or as few issues as you want, not just what the computer programmer thought you should have.
The language used to address each issue is pretty uniform, but the choice of issues that are covered is unique to each situation. There are a couple of places in a trust where unique language is often used. That is, there are a number of different choices in addressing a specific issue, such as how property will be divided among the beneficiaries (heirs) to the trust.
If you are uncomfortable using a kit or the standard form, then you should use a lawyer who is experienced in drafting trusts. All lawyers claim to be able to write a trust, but many lawyers simply use a form they get out of one of their form books. Before I started this article, I googled “Can I Write My Own Trust.” One of the top entries was a law firm. I clicked on it and their entire website was on criminal defense. Then they listed their services, and trusts were among all of the other legal topics possible. The firm was obviously interested in criminal defense, not trusts. I would use another firm that specializes in trusts.
Lawyers tend to be more expensive than the do it yourself options, and I have seen some horrible work come out of law firms. Many times I have seen documents where the wrong spouse was named in the document, there are parts of corporations stuck in the middle of the trust document, or trusts are created by the document but there is no way to ever put assets into the trust. A lot of junk comes out of law firms. At least the computer generated do it yourself stuff usually hangs together to create a workable trust, even if it doesn’t address some of the important issues.
If you fit into 98% of the scenarios, do your own trust. If you have a taxable estate (either above the federal limit of about $5 million+ or above the state estate taxes limits which are usually around $1 million), then you need an attorney to help you. You have more to lose if the trust isn’t done right.
Most folks don’t need to worry about estate taxes, because the federal limit is high and only about 16 states have state estate taxes. If estate taxes are not an issue and you won’t want a really convoluted distribution of the trust estate, then you are in the 98% group. The primary function of the revocable living trust is simply probate avoidance.
Probate avoidance isn’t as much dependent upon the language used in the trust document as it is on the “use” of the trust once it is established. That’s where the form documents and the computer generated documents really fall down. They don’t educate you on how to use the trust. Even the lawyers seldom teach a client how to use the trust. Just having a written piece of paper called a trust will not help your family avoid probate. You have to understand the trust, how it works, and how you use it throughout your lifetime. Most people (like 90% of the people) who get a revocable living trust don’t avoid probate. The failure isn’t in the trust document, but rather the client’s use of the trust.
Nolo Press has a pretty good trust kit for sale. LegaLees has a very good trust kit (it is a key section of my Accumulation and Preservation of Wealth System). The LegaLees kit has computer files for a number of different types of trusts. For example, a single person uses a very different trust than a married couple, or a non-taxable estate uses a very different trust than a taxable estate. In conjunction with the computer text files, the LegaLees kit has several hours of audio instructions on how to set up the trust, so you can create quite a unique trust. It also covers how to use your trust once it is established. This is key to your trust actually working when it is time. So very many people end up in probate despite having a trust because they didn’t know what to do with it once it was created.
Whether you do it yourself or pay the lawyer, a trust can be a great gift to your family when you become incompetent or die.
Do you have a kit I can buy?
Dorothy, the bulk of the Personal Planning section of my Accumulation and Preservation of Wealth set is basically a kit for writing your own trust.
How much does the kit cost, and does a lawyer have to hold a copy of it like they do with a will?
A lawyer doesn’t need to hold a copy of anything. Your lawyer should give you your will, if he drafts one for you. He should keep a copy or a second original for his files, but you get the originals. The kit is on the website for $2,499, but if you call the office and tell them I authorized it by this post, I will give you a 30% discount. They will look up the post or ask our web person about it, so be patient. You can do your own trust and the lawyer never needs to be involved. If you have a complicated estate then you may want your attorney to “review” the trust for you, and I certainly don’t discourage that. They will request some change just to prove they read it.
I’m Robert and my wife and I live in Florida..We have some properties in Florida that we’d like asset protection for..I myself currently have 4 Wyoming LLC’S and 2 Florida LLC’S, but only 1 is actively doing business. We would like to transfer or properties into one of our LLC’S for asset protection..We are starting our real estate investing companies but we need to have someone to analyze our assets and structure them in a way that they are bulletproof..How much would it cost for you to do it for use?
You’ll need to talk to my secretary, Candy. Call during regular office hours at 801-802-9020.
can you file a trust to avoid my 3 grown kids.
i am mostly concerned with a home i plan to pay off with my pension from work- AT&T). presently the home value $160.000 with a mortgage $116.000
i would like to also avoid any medical cost that could be attached to the house.
are their tax consequences for the trust?
Trusts usually aren’t filed. The advantage of a trust is it is private. Your kids never need to see the trust. Just make sure someone knows where it is after you die. Also make sure the trusts owns those assets that require your signature to transfer. If you use Medicaid not Medicare then the costs may be taken out of the house value after you die. Most people do not go on Medicaid, but if you do, the trust will not make any difference to the Medicaid laws. The assets would have to me given to someone at least five years before you set foot in the rest home. Living revocable trusts don’t have any tax consequences. You use your Social Security number for the trust and file taxes just like you always have.
I have a trust but since that time it was written, my home’s beed shared with my boyfriend. We have an agreement as we both are on the title. We have a specific way we want the house divided if either of us die and how the property will be divided. We both have 2 children. We do have a written, notarized agreement on how the surviving person will handle the home, in the event of either of our death. Do I need to do another trust or can this agreement be legal? Please advise.Thank you
If you say the house is in both of your names, that tells me that the house isn’t in the trust’s name. Therefore, the trust has nothing to do with the house and its management after a death. Your agreement won’t be affected by the fact that there is a trust. You aren’t dealing with trust property, so it is as if the trust didn’t exist. You had better watch the YouTube video on joint tenancy at https://youtu.be/xOUWqYh07Dc
We are from England uk and i wondered if the kit could be used to draft a trust valid in the uk? Please let me know so i can decide to purchase it or not.
No this kit deals with US law. The concepts of trusts stem from UK laws, in that the US and UK systems are related, but the tax laws, probate, etc are different in practice.
Hi my name is Maria. I have a living
Trust, and a small estate title with my late husband name in a foreign
judisdiction ( such as BC ) It would be possible to file pleading for amendment to the trust and transfer title to trust. Please respond
You’ll have to read the trust and see if it can be amended. Some of the living revocable trusts become irrevocable trusts when a spouse dies and they cannot be amended after that, so you’ll have to read the trust and see what it says.
I need a trust for mom that leaves me (her only living child) 60% and leaves her 4 grand kids 40%. Mom is 90. Mom and I are in Colorado, gr kids live elsewhere. To amend trust dtd 8/7/2017. And naming me personal representative.
Do you want a kit that will let you do it, or do you want legal help doing it?
My wife and I live in Florida …
Our home is in both our names as is our auto and bank accounts. So, do we need a trust? Or dies a will suffice?
When a couple holds assets as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, there isn’t much problem when the first spouse dies. The problem comes when both spouses die or the second spouse dies. The family will go through probate unless the assets are in a trust. do not put a child’s name on any asset to avoid probate.
I already have a trust. All I want to do is change the % each beneficiary receives and add a couple beneficiaries. Can’t I do that without paying a lawyer to do it? Last time I asked my lawyer about it she rewrote the whole trust and charged me $1500. Couldn’t I just write an amendment and gave it notarized?
You can simply amend the trust. It sounds like the things you want to do may be complicated, such as in a case where the additional beneficiaries aren’t kids and you are not leaving it equally to everyone. The language to do “odd” things will be very complicated. People look at the three paragraphs I wrote to say what they wanted to do, and they say that I wrote it exactly on, and it is very clear. They don’t understand that it took three hours to write those three paragraphs.
I have a statement I wrote in 1991 that I keep under the glass front and center on my desk.
The simplicity of a product is directly proportional to the square of the effort expended in creating the product.
Translation: it takes a lot of effort to create clear concise trust language and other simple straightforward things. Lawyers usually just do a word dump and hope somewhere in the dump they covered something. Usually, it is full of inconsistencies and contradictions. You can make the amendment yourself, but it could get complicated. If you want the pattern language for amending a trust, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for the amendment sample. Of course, you’ll have to fill in the language you want in your trust.