I agree that using a safe deposit box to store the original trust is a bad idea. I thought they were referring to an in-home safe because it had a combination. Maybe I'm misunderstanding?
Rosemary is correct
Steven, thanks for your kind reply. I didn't quite understand your point regarding the bank account. I created the living trust docs from LegalZoom and when I open a new bank account, it put the name of the trust as the owner and amend the trust by adding the new account number. Is that sufficient?
Usually, title is taken as (for example) " You, trustee for the You Family Trust". If you titled your account in the name of the trust, that is probably sufficient. But, Steven's point is well taken. You need to be extra careful when drafting your own trust. Errors in the trust drafting or titling can result in an estate or part of an estate being subject to Probate.
Absolutely agree. Internet documents and do-it-yourself planning is a recipe for thousands in legal expenses, down the road.
Hi James, could you please elaborate as what complication might come down the road. Our case is pretty simple and generic. Husband and wife owning together a house, few bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance that we want to pass on to our kids. I think a standard Trust template should do the work.
Part of the problem with estate planning is that problems seldom occur during your lifetime. They happen when you are gone. At that time, the people who step into your shoes need to try to decipher your intentions from the documents you left behind. Worst case scenario, the documents are invalid in your state. Best case scenario, everything works out fine. MOST of the cases I see fall somewhere in the middle. If the amendments are not done properly, they may be invalid. If that is the case, there can be arguments about what your intent was, (or what it would have been, if you knew the amendment would not be valid.) Everyone assumes that their case is "standard" and cut and dried. We see the horror cases, but we see them with enough frequency that it causes us to counsel against the use of standard templates. Some other problems with the use of these forms are, 1) there is generally no advice to determine if you are using the right form or using it correctly, and 2) there is no one to contact if a problem does arise. If you use a lawyer to prepare the estate plan, there is someone who can testify as to your intent, and there is someone who can handle any problems if they do arise.
People who do the kind of work that Ms. McMahon, Ms. Meagher-Leonard, Mr. Zelinger and myself do, do not do this thinking, "How much extra money can we extract from these clients who do not realize they can achieve the same thing with a cheap template?" We study constantly to keep on top of the laws and to use the latest refinements in the plans that we use, to provide the client with the best planning tools for their needs. We also counsel clients on the options that are available to achieve their objectives and to help them determine what they need. What you give up with your forms is the advice and service of a professional counselor at law
You can probably have a teenager who is good with his hands fix the brakes on your car for a fraction of the cost of a mechanic. But the teenager is not going to know how the brakes on that car wear, what the best kind to use is, whether you need to adjust the rotors, etc. You only find out if you got a good deal, when you find out if your car stops or not. And you may go through several sets of brake pads and rotors, when, if you had had a mechanic look at things, he could have saved you money in the long run.
In the case of estate planning, your kids find out if you got a good deal, when they see if the documents work or when they need to pay someone to fix the problem. I have heard enough horror stories that I am convinced that it is not worth the potential savings.
Sorry, I inadvertently left Mr. Kitta out. One thing I wanted to clarify. It is unclear from your summary, but it *sounds* like you are not actually amending your trust, but simply changing the list of assets that is covered (owned by) the trust. You normally would not need to amend the trust to deal with new assets, unless you specifically want those assets to go to a certain person. A properly established trust should deal with any assets it owns, without needing to be amended.
Hi James, thanks so much for the comprehensive advices. I actually use a separate form to amend the trust (not just adding to the page listing the assets). I've been instructed that once the trust is notarized, the proper way to change it is thru amendements. In my case assets are always distributed to the same folks (kids and siblings).
If adding assets can be done w/o amending the trust, do we need to notarize again after adding/removing assets? That would make life quite a bit easier.
Please keep in mind that I am a Michigan lawyer and that you would be best to direct these kinds of questions to someone who specializes in estate planning in California, such as Attorney Meagher-Leonard. She is top notch. In Michigan, the kind of thing you are talking about would not be considered an amendment at all. We use a LIST that we attach to the trust document to help the successor trustee to know generally what the assets are. We recommend that the trust grantors update that list regularly, and usually suggest about 6 month intervals. That list does not need to be notarized. If your forms are set up differently, however, it is possible that there is some benefit in notarizing that form. Without seeing exactly what you have, it is hard to say. My guess is that you are not really signing amendments and they do not need to be notarized.