top of page

Living Trusts for Different Circumstances

Different Lifestyles

Life is different for everyone. As a Californian trust attorney, I work in San Francisco, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and Sacramento County. Therefore I know many different families, all in different situations, with no lifestyle alike.

A living trust can be neatly drafted to nearly everyone's life situation. The legal reason for this flexibility is its origin. Trusts stem from the legal concept of contractual freedom. That allows the trust lawyer to consider many variants. If a trust attorney drafts a deed of trust, he must therefore regard the whole life of the grantor and of his family to find a suitable trust for the family.

Financial planning needs to be done, and the grantor has to think intensively about his own life. The grantor must determine whom he wants to inherit the family estate and if there are other persons to take care of. The structure of the trust depends on those circumstances. In some instances, having more than one living trust could even be advisable. Additional measures – such as drafting a last will or granting a power of attorney – are often required to get your estate planning done. Also, the different kinds of the grantor's property have to be considered. Suppose somebody owns a house in joint tenancy, for example. In that case, the surviving joint tenant will receive sole property upon the other party's death, no matter what the trust document says.

There is no standard living trust and no standard last will, so there is no common deed of trust for every life situation.

Standard Living Trust Forms

However, researching various guidebooks and the internet will find many so-called "standard living trust forms." Several authors have published standard forms for living trusts that are easy to understand and write. Often those forms distinguish different base models of living trusts that reflect different personal situations.

Advantages of Standard Form Living Trusts

Using a standard form is a great way to draft your living trust. If you like the paperwork and intensive thinking involved in creating a living trust, such living trust forms provide a perfect starting point to draft your very own trust document. Self-creating a trust might be preferable because you will understand the implications of your trust if you have set it up all by yourself. You can also amend your trust document to match future needs and changes.


Drawbacks of Standard Form Living Trusts

Nevertheless, relying on forms for drafting your living trust has some significant drawbacks. Being a San Francisco trust attorney, I still remember making my first trust document for a client. Indeed, having a law school degree helps a lot when you try to incorporate every bit of your client's wishes into a deed of trust. Yet, even though I was already used to the special legal terminology – it's been a challenging task. Therefore I can fully understand people who do not want to draft a living trust alone. Although standard trust forms are readily available to everyone, self-creating a living trust is still time-consuming and challenging, and it needs much reading before you can start.
In addition, no guidebook can cover every particularity that might occur in drafting a deed of trust. There might be a specific tax issue or a certain kind of property that requires special attention; every case is different. Therefore a self-created living trust document often bears the risk of overseeing essential issues. Your local trust law firm – e.g., Rinne Legal in San Francisco, Oakland, Fairfield, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento – can ensure that your estate planning is complete and nothing is forgotten.

The next chapter gives a basic structural outline of an ordinary living trust. Standard issues must be addressed as soon as you're married or involved in a permanent relationship. Therefore I start by describing the essential components of a living trust first; subsequently, I extend the subject to the unique needs of couples.
I will not provide an easy-to-copy sample form for a living trust. There are plenty of suitable sample forms already available. Instead, I will help you understand the structure of living trusts by outlining the essential components of the deed of trust.

Essential Components of a Living Trust

The high-level structure of a living trust usually consists of the most important points of the declaration of trust in a logical order. Often Roman numerals are used for high-level headings. The essential components of a living trust, which are described in the following chapter, are:

  • The Trust Name

  • The Trust Property

  • Powers of the Grantor

  • Trustees

  • Beneficiaries

  • Distribution of Trust Property

  • Trustee's Power and Duties

  • General Provisions

  • Certification by Grantor

Living Trust Structures for Couples

Living Trusts for Couples usually require substantive changes in the deeper levels of the basic pattern described above. This is caused by the particular situation that couples typically share. They are emotionally tied together, and they often own property collectively. Shared living also comes prevalently with shared household assets such as furnishings or electronics, and many couples own real estate. That applies to both married and unmarried partners. Therefore the following is written for every couple in a permanent relationship, in that the partners assume responsibility for each other.

Couples have several possibilities to structure their living trust(s). A couple could have one joint or two separate trusts for their respective property. Another option is that both or one partner chooses to have his trust besides a second trust held jointly by the spouses. All of these options are perfectly legal.
However, most couples choose the one-trust option. The reason is a significant drawback of the individual trusts option. In addition to that, the spouses are usually forced to split up their jointly held property. Especially dividing real estate ownership usually comes with severe administrative work as the partners would each have to transfer a half-interest in the house to two separate trusts.

But still, sometimes separate living trusts are the better choice because the couple's ownership structure can be established easier upon the death of one of the partners. Whatever structure is suitable for you. The trust attorneys of Rinne Legal in San Francisco, Fairfield, Oakland, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento will find the right living trust solution for you and your family.

Additional Components for a Couples' living trust

Being an estate and trust attorney in San Francisco, I assume most couples who wish to take care of their collective estate planning live together. However, regular living trusts for couples have to cope with the additional interests of the family they are designed for. The partners have agreed to take responsibility for each other and their descendants. In general care-taking wishes of this kind complicate estate planning immensely. The declaration of trust should reflect this family situation.

The high-level structure of a trust for couples is mainly identical to that of a living trust for singles. But there are many differences within the sub-items. If you want to use a standard living trust form, y
ou must use one for couples. If you ask for the help of an estate planning attorney, he will draft the trust document right to your needs.

Children's Trusts

Special attention is also needed as soon as there are children involved. Often such trusts have clauses that deal with this specific issue.

Commonly, a provision creates a separate trust for each minor child upon the grantor's death. The clause ensures that all trust property meant to be given to a child is transferre
d to the child's trust. Another clause usually stipulates an age limit.

In most cases, legally binding management instructions for the trustee are outlined within this section. These guidelines ensure the trust funds are administered according to the deceased's will.

As an experienced trust lawyer in Sacramento, I regularly advise a section prohibiting the voluntary or involuntary assignment of any interests that the child's trust property may generate. Finally, the whole section is usually completed by provisions that regard the compensation of the trustee and the termination of the child's trust.

Instead of naming your children as beneficiaries of your trust, there is the possibility of using the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). The UTMA is a model law adopted by all states except South Carolina and Vermont. The advantages of using the UTMA are outlined in the respective chapter below.

bottom of page