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    Is It Wise to Create a D.I.Y. Living Trust?

    By Jay Greene, Esq., CPA–

    While doing some things on your own has its advantages and can save time and money, there are things better left to professionals. Before you decide if Estate Planning and creating your own trust is one of them, here is what you need to know.

    What Is a Living Trust

    Estate Planning is for everyone, and it is not about how much money you have; it’s about protecting what you have for yourself, during your lifetime, and for those you love, after you are gone. It ensures what you have gets to the people you love, the way you want, and when you want it if it is done correctly. A Living Trust is a planning strategy to accomplish this.

    A living trust is your rule book, a way that you can stay in control and limit government intervention in your plan. A trust is like a contract between the Grantor (the person who creates the trust), the Trustee (one who controls the trust), and the beneficiaries (those entitled to benefit from the trust). It permits you to keep total control and access to all your assets during your lifetime and provides for the distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries at your death.

    A well-established advantage of a Revocable Living Trust, unlike a Last Will, is that it avoids the stressful probate process when done correctly. It could provide asset protection for your spouse and beneficiaries after your death, and it keeps family affairs private, with no court intervention required. There are also other benefits available as well, depending on your planning needs.

    D.I.Y. Living Trust

    A D.I.Y Living Trust is where you find online documents and usually fill in a template answering a few basic questions and does not require the direct supervision and guidance of an attorney. Sounds simple, right? I wish that were the case, but there are things to consider before deciding if a D.I.Y Living Trust is right for you.

    Considerations in Creating a Living Trust

    The first thing to consider is that creating a Living Trust may sound like an easy way to create an asset management and distribution plan, but there are pitfalls to be aware of. The benefits we talked about previously are not found in every trust document. It is usually through counseling a client that an attorney discovers what to put into the document to get the client their desired results. When you answer a list of questions to create a document, you may or may not get what you want; you will have to read through the document to know.

    That brings us to the second thing to consider: the legal language in a Living Trust. It is a legal document that has certain terms and terminologies that are often too technical for an ordinary individual. You need to understand what each article of the document does and how it does it, because a single misinterpretation may result in an ineffective document.

    That brings us to the third thing to consider: the funding of the Trust. If you do not properly fund the trust, meaning transfer the proper assets into the trust, you may lose several, if not all, of the advantages of the Living Trust. You may still end up with court intervention by going through the Probate process. Also, another key thing to remember about the Living Trust is that it does not protect your assets during your life from other lawsuits, divorce, bankruptcy, and other creditors, including long term care costs.

    A Living Trust is not an ordinary document. It is a legal document.

    How an Attorney Supports You to Create a Living Trust

    We have discussed some of the benefits of the Living Trust, but as you saw, the word correctly appeared a lot. It is all about creating the document correctly so your plan works the way you want it to and protects your legacy. Not every Living Trust will provide all the benefits we listed. Each person’s situation is unique and only a qualified estate planning attorney will know how to identify, counsel you through, and incorporate these benefits and protections into your plan. A D.I.Y Living Trust could save money now, but cost your family thousands in the future. This is not even mentioning  the added stress and anxiety. You may even leave behind unnecessary debts or taxes that will need to be paid.

    If you were to die today, are you comfortable that everything will be taken care of the way you wanted? It is always best to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. This will ensure the best way to accomplish your goals and protect your assets.

    Getting started is as simple as contacting an experienced estate planning attorney. Jay provides personal counseling around your goals and will usually offer you flat fee options to accomplish them. You may reach us by calling 415-905-0215, or by scanning the QR code in our ad. We also give you a reasonable timeline to ensure your plan is completed when you need it to be.

    It is common to start your planning journey without knowing every detail you wish to include. This is why it is so important to start the process so you can share your goals with loved ones. We look forward to hearing from you!

    Statements In Compliance with California Rules of Professional Conduct: The materials in this article have been prepared by Attorney Jay Greene for educational purposes only and are not legal advice. This information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individuals should consult with an estate planning and elder law attorney for up-to-date information for their individual plans.

    Jay Greene, Attorney, CPA, is the founder of Greene Estate, Probate, & Elder Law Firm based in San Francisco, and is focused on helping LGBT individuals, couples, and families plan for their future, protect their assets, and preserve their wealth. For more information and to schedule an assessment, visit:

    Trust Essentials
    Published on February 23, 2023