A living trust is used to protect your assets. You can transfer anything you have of value, such as property you own or your financial accounts, to the living trust. You can then set up beneficiaries for the trust. When you die, the beneficiaries you've assigned obtain the items held by the trust. In this way, a living trust acts as a type of will. However, it is different from a will because your assets won't have to go through probate after you die, which can take months. In the state of California, much like the rest of the United States, you can create a living trust to protect your assets and make it easier for your family to divide them after you die.
Find an attorney who practices within the state of California and is familiar with the process of setting up a living trust. Many lawyers specialize in estate planning, wills and trusts. The more experience your lawyer has with living trusts, the better. You can find background information on lawyers through the State Bar of California website.
Name yourself as the trustee of the living trust. This means that you legally can manage the trust and all the assets within it. You can have more than one trustee. For example, a husband and wife might transfer their home to a living trust and both be the trustees.
Choose successors of your living trust. The successors are the beneficiaries for the trust, meaning that once all the trustees die, the successors acquire control of the trust. They can continue to manage the trust, or they can transfer the assets of the trust to themselves. Choosing successors is a lot like choosing heirs for a will. The people you choose will receive your property and other financial assets when you die. If you have property in California that you assume won't be sold, such as a profitable vineyard, you may want to choose successors who live nearby, or at least in the state.
Decide how you want the items within your living trust to be distributed to your successors. For example, real estate in the state of California can be very expensive; therefore, you may not want to give all your property to one person. You can arrange it so that your home or other property is passed on to multiple beneficiaries. Once you die, the beneficiaries can sell the home and split the profit if they so choose.
Make sure all of the trustees sign the living trust. If you don't sign the living trust, additional legal steps will need to be taken by your successors before they can obtain the items being held by the trust.
Decide where to file your living trust. Many people keep it themselves, but it can also be kept by a lawyer or with a trustee.
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