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"How to Establish a Living Trust in Aliso Viejo: A Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning in Orange County, California"

Posted by James Burns | Dec 24, 2023 | 0 Comments


In the quest for securing a stable and well-planned future, many turn to the creation of a living trust, a legal mechanism allowing individuals to manage and protect their assets both during their lifetime and after. This comprehensive guide, tailored with a British perspective, delves into the process of establishing a living trust, ensuring that your legacy is preserved and passed on according to your wishes.

1. Determining the Type of Trust

Individual vs Joint Trust: The first step in creating a living trust is to decide whether it will be an individual or joint trust. For those married, a joint trust might seem more straightforward, combining both individual and shared assets. This method is particularly beneficial in managing shared property, although individual trusts for each party are viable but may lead to complexities with joint assets.

2. Inventorying Your Assets

Asset List Creation: An essential part of trust creation is making an inventory of your assets. This list isn't just a catalogue but a strategic document helping you decide the disposition of these assets. Not all property should be included in the trust; for example, retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries are best left out to avoid unnecessary complications.

3. Gathering Necessary Paperwork

Asset Documentation: As you prepare to transfer your assets into the trust, gathering all pertinent information like account numbers and property details is crucial. Accuracy here is key — the trust documents must accurately reflect the details of the properties to be included.

4. Deciding on Beneficiaries

Choosing Heirs: Determining who will inherit your trust property is a deeply personal decision, involving not just the selection of beneficiaries but also considering the appointment of someone to manage the property for minors. It's also wise to name alternate beneficiaries in case the primary choices are unable or unwilling to accept the trust property.

5. Appointing a Successor Trustee

Trustee Responsibilities: Selecting a reliable and trustworthy successor trustee is vital. This individual will take over the management and distribution of your assets post-mortem. While you retain control over your property as trustee in your lifetime, the successor trustee's role becomes active upon your passing, with responsibilities including asset distribution and tax dealings.

Drafting Your Trust Documents

Trust Identification and Structure: The trust document begins with identifying the trust, its type, and the involved parties. As the grantor, you name yourself and outline the trust's structure and terms. Naming the trust should be straightforward, often including your name and the type of trust, such as "Revocable Living Trust."

Trustee and Successor Trustee Roles: Detailed within the document are the responsibilities and rights of both the trustee (you, during your lifetime) and the successor trustee. This section should be read and understood fully, even if using a template, to ensure all terms align with your wishes.

Beneficiary Designations: The heart of the trust document is where the beneficiaries are listed, along with the specifics of how and when they will receive the assets. This can be done within the main document or in a separate schedule of property, which allows for easier amendments.

Executing Your Trust

Signing and Notarization: With the trust document complete, it must be properly signed and notarized, often requiring witnesses or a notary public. Ensuring you have multiple original signed copies is wise for record-keeping and facilitating the successor trustee's future responsibilities.

Recording and Storing Documents: While trusts generally don't need to be filed like wills, securely storing your trust documents is crucial. Safe deposit boxes or home safes are common choices. Ensure that your successor trustee knows the location and access methods for these documents.

Transferring Assets into the Trust: The act of funding the trust involves re-titling assets in the name of the trust. This is a vital step in actualizing the trust's purpose. Property, whether real or otherwise, should have titles reflecting their inclusion in the trust, with appropriate modifications to deeds and accounts.

Obtaining an EIN: Finally, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for the trust if necessary for tax purposes, particularly after your death. While alive, the trust may not need separate tax filings, but the EIN is essential for any income-generating assets within the trust posthumously or if an irrevocable trust is used that is non-grantor (more technical structuring).


Creating a living trust is a process that requires thoughtful deliberation, detailed planning, and a clear understanding of your long-term intentions. It's a testament to your desire to protect and efficiently transfer your assets, offering peace of mind and a legacy of care. With careful consideration and perhaps the guidance of legal counsel, you can ensure that your trust reflects your wishes, providing a solid framework for the future of your estate. Going it alone an doing it on your own comes with risk and why would you risk all your assets, children and situations that affect you? If you are looking for quality assistance please give us a call at (949) 305-8642 and set up your appointment. 

About the Author

James Burns

Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Business and Real Estate Transactions, nutraceutical Law and franchising:


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