How to Prepare a Living Trust & Will for a Single Mother

Make a list of all your property, including real estate (e.g. your home) and personal property (e.g. your car, bank accounts, retirement plans and household items).

Obtain one of the many legal publications or computer programs designed to assist with preparing a living trust and will. When choosing one, verify that it was published to conform to the laws of your state. The information on the publication or packaging should explicitly say that it was designed for use in your state.

Choose two people to act as trustee and backup trustee under your living trust and will. The trustee will manage your assets for the benefit of your children after your death. When you prepare your living trust, it will state that you are the trustee during your lifetime, and that the first person named will be substituted as trustee when you die. Although it is not legally required, it is wise to secure the consent of those you have chosen.

Nominate two people as guardians in your will. A guardian will raise your children to adulthood after your death. Like the position of trustee, the first person named will seek guardianship at your passing, and the other will act as an alternate. However, unlike your ability to name a successor trustee to manage your assets, all jurisdictions require a court to appoint a guardian for your children. Courts are not bound by your choices, but are inclined to follow testamentary intentions absent unusual circumstances.

Execute your living trust and will according to the laws of your state. This usually requires you to sign the documents in the presence of two "disinterest witnesses" (that is, two adults who are not beneficiaries of your estate). Notarizing the documents is good practice, and the notary will count as one of the witnesses. Put the original documents in a place for safekeeping, and make copies for the trustees.

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About the Author

Joe Stone is a freelance writer in California who has been writing professionally since 2005. His articles have been published on LIVESTRONG.COM, SFgate.com and Chron.com. He also has experience in background investigations and spent almost two decades in legal practice. Stone received his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles.