You can certainly create a living trust by yourself. However, it might be easier to get the help of a lawyer, especially if your estate is large or complex. Especially in New York, it might be a smart move to create a living trust, even if you have a smaller estate. Many people create a revocable living trust as part of their estate plan.
These trusts can be modified or revoked at any time. You will usually appoint yourself as the trustee of your trust. This means that as long as you are alive, you will retain control of the trust and its property. In your trust document, you will also appoint a successor trustee to take over and manage the trust (distribute your property) after your death.
If you create a shared living trust, as spouses usually do, your successor trustee will take over after both spouses have died. When you create a DIY living trust, there are no lawyers involved in the process. You will need to choose a trustee who will be responsible for managing and distributing the trust assets. The document that creates the trust is called a statement of trust.
You have two options to do so. First, you can hire a lawyer to write the living trust. The other option is to purchase a living trust form and complete it. Many people find that they can successfully establish their own living trust without the help of an attorney.
Creating a living trust requires more work than writing a will because a living trust requires you to take the extra step of transferring ownership to the trust. But like wills, living trusts are simple documents that don't require an attorney's approval. The creator of a living revocable trust is generally referred to as the grantor and, in most cases, the grantor will also act as a trustee, managing the trust and the assets it owns. By placing assets in a revocable living trust, they can bypass the probate process after their death.
Unlike irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts allow you to modify them as needed and adapt to life changes. Irrevocable trusts can be useful tools for specific purposes, such as reducing taxes, but they require relinquishing ownership and control of trust property. Contrary to popular belief, revocable living trusts offer very little asset protection if you retain an ownership interest, such as appointing yourself as a trustee. Placing certain assets in a living revocable trust can ensure that a trusted family member or friend, known as your successor trustee, can control the assets if you are incapacitated without requiring court permission.
The law still considers that you are the owner of the property within your living trust revocable because you can change ownership of the property or terminate the trust at any time, and control the contents of the trust as a trustee. A revocable living trust, unlike a will, offers a fast, private, and probate free way to transfer one's property after death. While establishing a revocable living trust has many advantages, there are also some drawbacks. Compared to wills, revocable trusts provide greater privacy, as well as more control and flexibility over asset distribution.
Saving time and money is usually a good thing, but the long-term outcome of having your own revocable living trust could be financially disastrous—much more expensive than simply paying a lawyer to draw up an estate plan for you in the first place. The challenge of writing a revocable living trust yourself is formidable, even with the help of books, software and online help. The living trust allows you to make changes (or amendments) to the trust document while you are alive, at your own discretion. Most grantors appoint themselves as trustees of their revocable living trust so that they can retain control of their assets throughout their lifetime.
With a revocable living trust, you do most of the work upfront, making the disposition of your estate easier and faster. .