What to Include in a New or Updated Living Trust Estate Plan

People often ask what should be included in a new living trust plan or, similarly, what should be included when updating an existing living trust plan.  Here are the basic elements of such a plan for California residents:


Revocable Living Trust.  Note that for those with an existing living trust that needs to be updated, this is often done with a so-called “restatement,” with the name and date of the existing living trust remaining the same. A restatement is an amendment of the entire trust document, rewriting it to conform to your current wishes, current circumstances, and current law.


Assignment.  After creating a trust document, you should assign the assets intended to be transferred over to the trust. This includes transferring your deeds, bank accounts, stock, etc. to the living trust.


Certification of Trust. Attached to this document is a copy of every page of your trust, except for the inheritance and asset pages. This document is then given to any bank, title company, or brokerage firm who requires written proof of the trust existence prior to titling assets in the name of the trust.


Pour Over Will.  This document transfers (or “pours over”) to the living trust any assets that had not been titled in the name of the trust on death.


Deeds.  Your plan should include a deed transferring your California real property intended to be owned by the trust.


Beneficiary Designation Forms.  When completing your living trust plan, you should review and, if needed, modify the change of beneficiary forms for any assets distributed by such forms. This includes, among other things, life insurance, annuities, IRAs, and 401(K)s. Often, the primary and secondary beneficiaries should be changed to be consistent with your overall inheritance wishes and income tax consequences.


In addition to the items above, your living trust plan should include a Durable General Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. These documents appoint someone to act as your agent for your financial and health care needs, respectively, if you were alive and unable to manage these affairs on your own.


Additional documents are sometimes needed, depending upon the nature and complexity of one’s assets.


For more information on creating a living trust plan, see the following articles discussing related topics:



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